Pakistan has reduced access to Wikipedia and threatened to block it over “sacred” content.

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Pakistan’s conflict with websites that publish user-generated content is not entirely new. In the past, it has banned YouTube multiple times, banned Bigo Live, pressured Twitter and Facebook to remove certain content, and blocked Tinder and TikTok due to indecent content. Now, the government of Pakistan has “disabled” access to Wikipedia due to content hosted by the platform it deems objectionable.

In terms of what degraded access actually means, we tested it ourselves and repeatedly terminated the connection to Wikipedia, regardless of the page you were trying to access. However, this is not a complete block as the page eventually loads but the process is quite cumbersome as it requires a few minutes with multiple manual refreshes in most cases.

The reason for restricting access is due to the platform hosting objectionable content by the government of Pakistan. The demotion is in effect for the next 48 hours but if the said content is not removed it will lead to a permanent block. The full notice from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) can be seen below:

As can be seen above, the PTA claims that it requested Wikipedia to discuss the matter with the regulator but the company did not appear for the hearing and did not even remove the allegedly offensive content. As it stands, Wikipedia has 48 hours to comply with the order before being completely blocked in the country. Details of what content has been deemed objectionable by the government have not been revealed.

If Wikipedia is blocked, it will cause many problems for the citizens of Pakistan as the website is heavily used especially by students. While many people will find the use of VPNs to work, this restriction adds unnecessary challenges. Such initiatives by the government can also lead to this trend. Streisand Effect (thanks, Wikipedia)So it remains to be seen how successful this effort is for the country as a whole and its regulatory authorities.



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