Pakistan places ad calling for bids for national Internet filtering and blocking system
By Elizabeth Flock
Here we go again. A government ad in Pakistani newspapers Thursday calls for bids for a national firewall for “filtering and blocking” of content on the Web, the technology and culture blog Boing Boing reports.
For many Pakistanis, the ad — posted by the Ministry of Information Technology’s R & D department — prompted flashbacks to the last major incident of Internet censorship in the country, on “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” last May. The cartoon contest spurred Pakistani authorities to order that Internet service providers block access to Facebook and other social media sites, later adding YouTube to the list. Cellphone company Mobilink said access to other sites with “blasphemous content” were also blocked, and a Post reporter said Wikipedia was not working.
The day after the cartoon contest, those sites went back up, but the incident had a lasting impact on Pakistan’s Internet censors.
The following month, a petition presented to the Lahore High Court called on Pakistani Internet service providers to filter content labeled as “smut.”
Also in June, users of Mobilink reported that they were unable to search for several politically sensitive keywords, including the name of the country’s president, according to Opennet.net.
And now this. More information about the proposed filtering and blocking system is on the Ministry of Information Technology’s Web site (here and here.) The site says the content to be blocked is anything deemed “undesirable” by the ministry “from time to time.”
Each hardware box, the ministry also says, “should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URLs … with processing delay of not more than 1 milliseconds.”