A Pakistani court this week ordered the government to block access to Facebook in that country. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority posted an order on its website directing all ISPs in the country to block Facebook "till further order." The authority was following a directive made by Pakistan's Lahore High Court after one Facebook group encouraged users to post pictures of the prophet Muhammad.
The Facebook group cited by the court, called Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!, has drawn widespread ire because Islam prohibits any depictions of Mohammed. As of 12:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, 45,472 people liked the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day page on Facebook. However, 61,133 people liked an opposing page dubbed AGAINST Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.
The Everybody Draw Mohammed Day page, which has drawn multiple angry comments from those opposing it, notes that "We are not trying to slander the average Muslim , its not a Muslim/Islam hate page. We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Mohammed depictions, that we're not afraid of them. That they can't take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us to silence."
The Pakistan government, however, is trying to block that page, and by extension all Facebook pages, from reaching its citizens. The Associated Press reported this afternoon that access to the controversial page has been blocked in Pakistan, and that access to the Facebook site is sporadic.
Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said he's not surprised by Pakistan's move to silence Facebook but doubts that the government's effort can be successful in the long run. "I think we can expect to see more of this type of thing coming from dictatorial countries as they try to keep their citizenry locked down," said Olds. "However, they're going to find that it will be increasingly difficult to block things like Facebook, Twitter, and other web vehicles. While blocking the domain will work, people will discover proxy servers and other workarounds that will allow them access to the Internet at large."
Last year, during a harsh government crackdown in Iran following the release of disputed election results, protesters were able to relay information to Internet users outside the country via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
"Trying to stop citizens from accessing the Internet is increasingly becoming like a little kid trying to stop the tide with a toy shovel and a bucket," said Olds. "Unless the country can physically control access to net-enabled devices, they don't have much hope to stop people from accessing the web freely. There will always be folks who will find workarounds."