Pakistan Lifts Facebook Ban; Bangladesh Cracks Down

As Pakistan lifted a two-week long ban on Facebook Monday, Bangladesh began blocking the site.

Both bans followed the creation of a Facebook group promoting "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," an event that encourages participants to submit artistic representations of the prophet Mohammed — something many Muslims consider to be idolatry — as an exercise in free speech.

As Jillian York explained in an ONI blog post earlier this month, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked the site on May 19 in accordance with a Pakistani high court order. The order followed a complaint by the Islamic Lawyers' Movement, a group that petitioned the court, calling the Facebook group "blasphemous."

Neither the original Facebook group nor the associated blog and website are currently in operation. According to the BBC the group was completely "withdrawn" by Facebook officials, while The Guardian reports that Facebook has "restricted access to the page in certain countries, including Pakistan, 'out of respect for local rules.'" The group is not accessible from the United States.

On May 31, Pakistan's Lahore High Court announced that it would reverse its order and restore access to the site. However, the court asked the government to take steps to prevent access to blasphemous and sacrilegious content online by considering a filter similar to that used in Saudi Arabia.

As Pakistan reversed its ban, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) announced that it would be "temporarily" blocking all access to the site within Bangladesh. The block is in response to "obnoxious images", according to a representative of the BTRC. The offending content includes depictions of Mohammed and several of the country's political officials as well as links to pornographic sites. The BTRC has said it will restore access once the content is removed.

A 30-year-old man has been arrested in the Bangladeshi capital for posting images of Mohammed on Facebook.

According to ONI sources, the United Arab Emirates blocked the individual Facebook group. Saudi Arabia has also blocked the group.

Herdict: Help us track whether Facebook is accessible from your country!
Internet censorship reporting site Herdict collected over 30 reports that Facebook was inaccessible in Pakistan. As of Tuesday afternoon, users in Bangladesh were largely reporting that Facebook is still accessible, though this is likely to change as the ban continues. You can tell us whether Facebook is accessible in your country via the Herdict reporter or using Twitter or e-mail.