The interior ministry informed the Islamabad High Court on Monday that Facebook administration has been blocking illegal blasphemous content on Pakistan’s request and 85 per cent of such material on the social networking site has already been removed.
Interior Secretary Arif Khan said in his report that Facebook had responded to their letter and showed its willingness to remove content deemed blasphemous.
He said the federal government has taken ambassadors of 27 Muslim countries on board in connection with the issue. Furthermore, three arrests have been made during the course of the online blasphemy probe, out of which two people were directly involved in posting blasphemous content, he stated.
Law enforcers have also found blasphemous content from the suspects’ laptops and mobile devices. A joint interrogation team has been constituted to probe into the matter, he added.
When asked why the ambassador of the country from where the offence originated was not summoned, the interior secretary responded: “Our embassy in Washington has also taken up the matter [with the US government].”
He said banning Facebook is “not the solution of the problem”.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Ismael Shah said a team, comprising 25 members, has been working to search blasphemous content online. He said that the authority has so far taken action against 40 such pages.
He said the Facebook administration has realised the issue and “assured to comply with our demand”.
“Facebook agreeing to our demands is a big achievement,” the PTA chief said.
In his remarks, IHC Chief Justice Shaukat Siddiqui praised the government for hosting a meeting of 27 envoys of Muslims countries.
Justice Siddiqui expressed displeasure over the role of the information ministry and ordered IT Minister Anusha Rehman to come in person and explain why the issue has not been resolved as yet.
The chief justice also sought a report on amendments in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016.
The hearing of the case will resume on March 31 as the court directed all parties to submit their progress reports on the day.
The government had approached Facebook earlier this month regarding access to the records of three controversial pages accused of spreading blasphemous content. Facebook in its reply had said it is aware of the government’s reservations and that it wants to resolve the issue via bilateral dialogue and mutual understanding.
Facebook management had also decided to send a delegation to Pakistan for investigating content which the government considers to be blasphemous.