Pakistan asks Facebook and Twitter to help identify blasphemers


Pakistan has asked Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said an official in Pakistan’s Washington embassy had approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

He said Pakistani authorities had identified 11 people for questioning over alleged blasphemy and would seek the extradition of anyone living abroad.

Facebook said it reviews all government requests carefully, “with the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users”.

“We disclose information about accounts solely in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law. A mutual legal assistance treaty or other formal request may be required for international requests, and we include these in our government requests report,” which is publicised each year, it said in a statement.

Facebook has often struggled to deal with the varying cultural norms around censorship in the hundred-plus countries where it operates. In a sprawling manifesto released in February, the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, described one possible solution to the difficulty: “combine creating a large-scale democratic process to determine standards with AI to help enforce them”.

In that plan, Zuckerberg said, Facebook would ask users all over the world to vote on what sort of content they found acceptable to see on their social media feeds. Content which breached those personal and national standards would then be automatically flagged by an artificial intelligence, and removed without the need for human intervention.