The Canadian role in censoring the internet in Pakistan

by Andrew Roach on June 23, 2013

There has been much fuss over the last couple of weeks by government and industry officials in Canada to make sure that the internet remains a free and secure environment for all users.

But a new report has unveiled that technology developed in Canada is actually being used by officials in Pakistan to censor the internet.

It found that government owned Pakistan Telecom Company used the Ontario based platform Netsweeper to filter out some sites deemed unacceptable in the country.

The report was compiled by The Citizen Lab, a start-up company based in the University of Toronto which compiles research on issues surrounding human rights and the media.

In the report, Netsweeper was being used by the PTCL to censor any topics that were deemed unacceptable or critical of the Pakistani government.

This included any content on the ongoing difficulties within Balochistan or Sindh as well as reference to Pashtun uprising.

Alongside the political bans, there has also been some regulation of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter which have proven to be hotspots for criticism and opposition to actions carried out by the Pakistani government.

Netswepeer’s technology is able to search through the web and filter out any content that has been deemed unsuitable for a certain audience.

The Ontario company has yet to respond to the claims outlined by The Citizen Land in their report about their role in Pakistan and the role their software could play in the country.

Internet censorship has become a hotly contested issue of late and has often been one of the biggest areas for criticisms aimed towards developing governments.

With social media sites often showing incidents and images unfavourable towards some offices, it often results in those sites being filtered and restricted to users in some countries.

As technology has grown, it has become easier to track methods that filtering software programmes use to block out sites on the web. This was solidified by Ronald Deibert, director of The Citizen Lab, who told The Globe and Mail that “You see a 404 page, but it isn’t a 404. It looks like an error or a broken connection”.

The news that Canadian technology such as Netsweeper is being used by foreign firms to censor the Internet is certainly a blow to the privacy battle and it will mean that technology firms will need to do more to ensure that their programmes aren’t used in the wrong way to hinder civil liberties in foreign nations.

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December 2, 2013 at 5:57 am

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