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Twitter unblocked in Pakistan after row over 'blasphemous content'

The Pakistani government has removed its block on Twitter, after "blasphemous" content prompted regulators to shut down the site.

Twitter ban pakistan 21 05 2012Enlarge
Twitter was unavailable for most of Sunday, after it refused to take down what Pakistani regulators called "blasphemous material." It's now back up and running. (BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The government of Pakistan has unblocked Twitter, hours after shutting the site down over allegedly "blasphemous" material.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani personally ordered regulators to restore access to the site, according to the Washington Post.

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The Pakistan Telecommunication Agency announced yesterday that Twitter had been banned by the Ministry of Information Technology for refusing to take down "blasphemous material." The content in question is believed to promote a competition to draw cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, an act which many Muslims would consider blasphemy.

Twitter was unavailable between 8 am and 5 pm GMT, Al Jazeera's correspondent reported from Karachi. 

Persistent users were able to defy the ban by downloading extra software or using smartphones, however, the Post said.

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Pakistani commentators reacted angrily, decrying the ban as censorship. An editorial in Pakistani daily the Express Tribune described the move as "overreaction of monumental proportions from the government."

"Blocking access to information used to be easier in the pre-internet days; now it is doomed to failure," the paper said. "All the government can achieve is making itself look ridiculous by censoring the internet."

The Pakistani authorities did manage to persuade Facebook to block content related to the Mohammed cartoon competition, as it did with a similar page in 2010.

"While we do not remove this type of content from the site entirely unless it violates our Statement of Rights and responsibilities, out of respect for local laws, traditions and cultures, we may occasionally restrict its visibility in the countries where it is illegal, as we have done in this case," Facebook told CNN in a statement.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/120521/twitter-unblocked-pakistan-blasphemous-content