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Facebook official meets Pakistan interior minister over blasphemous posts

A senior Facebook official met Pakistan’s interior minister to discuss a demand that the social media platform should remove blasphemous content or be blocked.

world Updated: Jul 07, 2017 22:17 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Facebook vice president Joel Kaplan.
Facebook vice president Joel Kaplan.(via Facebook)

A senior Facebook official met Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Friday to discuss a demand that the social media platform should remove blasphemous content or be blocked in the country, where it has more than 33 million users.

Khan met Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president dealing with global public policy, and discussed various steps and actions being taken to remove blasphemous content, the interior ministry said in a statement.

The meeting came after a Pakistani anti-terror court sentenced a man to death for comments on Facebook that were deemed blasphemous.

The interior ministry quoted Khan as saying that the Muslim ‘Ummah’ (brotherhood) was “greatly disturbed” and had serious concerns over the misuse of social media platforms to spread blasphemous content. “Nothing is more sacred to us than our religion and our holy personalities,” he said.

Khan appreciated the understanding shown by Facebook and the cooperation extended to Pakistan on these issues. Pakistan believes in freedom of expression but that shouldn’t include insulting Islam or fomenting religious tensions, he added.

Facebook described the meeting as “constructive” and said it had raised its concerns over recent court cases, according to an email cited by Reuters. Facebook also said it applied a “strict legal process to any government request for data or content restrictions”..

The social media behemoth also expressed its deep commitment to protecting the rights of people who use its service and to enabling them to express themselves freely and safely”.

Khan said Pakistan is playing a proactive role in engaging internet service providers and finding solutions to the misuse of social media. A special meeting of ambassadors of Muslim countries had been convened in March with a single point agenda — blasphemous content on social media and how to effectively raise the voice of the Muslim world.

Kaplan told Khan Facebook recently launched a digital literacy campaign, iChamp, that aims to touch secondary schools across Pakistan to educate youngsters on the benefits and safe use of the internet.

This programme will be supported by Facebook’s Free Basics project, which provides free access to dozens of websites. Under the venture covering 76 districts across all four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, an estimated 600,000 students will be trained by experts with free handbooks and other resources.

Kaplan also said Facebook has reiterated its commitment to keep the platform safe and to promote values that are in congruence with its community standards. Social media site is also committed to removing fake accounts and explicit, hateful and provocative material that incites violence and terrorism, he added.