The Internet is rapidly moving to be a domain of the global watchdogs and secret agencies. These organizations are virtually spying on everything on the Internet. The cover of fighting terrorism has been taken for taking such actions. The debate, of course is in full swing in the relevant quarters about the justifications of such measures.
Now coming to the Pakistani web scene, the factors which have really perplexed me (a common web surfer) is the attitude of Pakistani authorities in this regard. A whole lot of bloggers and net surfers had to suffer when blogspot and other sites were banned in Pakistan. The reason given was the posting of blasphemous caricatures in a few blogs. Now there are millions of blogs, if something controversial is present on a few blogs then it’s not a very sane thing to block every blog site.
The notion of patriotism also led to the banning of many websites like Baloch Voice etc. I agree that these websites were spreading hatred and discontent. I also agree that anti-Pakistan elements were hosting such sites, but the counter argument would be that it might be more appropriate to have a first hand knowledge of what such elements think and want to achieve? That knowledge can only be retrieved by reading the material posted on their websites and also by confronting it.
There also have been reports that government, under pressure from some circles, is planning to ban the “immoral” content available on Internet. Apparently, a committee has been constituted by the Ministry of Information Technology to examine the so-called “offensive” or anti-state content on Internet and to ban it accordingly.
Surely we are not the only ones in such dire straits, China and numerous other countries are also treading on the path of sanctioned Internet. The kind of restrictions and blockage our Chinese fellows face is another story to tell. Iran and some other Islamic countries too have a very questionable Internet freedom record. While doing some research on international censorship trends, I was surprised to notice that even western countries and especially the U.S are also not lagged behind in this censorship frenzy.
The above mentioned practices lead one to think about the future of Internet censorship. Thanks to the efforts of international activists, one can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Amnesty International has launched a campaign, “Be Irrepressible”, to counter the Internet censorship measures taken by various governments. Civil societies in almost every country are fighting (not that fighting…….. the peaceful one of course..) for the right of freedom of speech. “Don’t block the Blog” campaign by some Pakistanis is an excellent example of that. Also, which Google agreed to block traffic in China, Yahoo refused such proposals. I think now it’s too late to control the Internet traffic anymore. People are now so much aware of their rights that you can’t forcefully impose your views on them.
So in my personal opinion, it would be an uphill task for any country to continue suppressing the voices of conscience. One day we’ll be able to achieve the goal of freedom of speech and the freedom of browsing.