Pakistan leads in global censorship requests to Facebook


–Facebook’s transparency report reveals 31pc of total requests for content restriction originated from Pakistan

On the request of Pakistan’s government, Facebook restricted 5,690 items within the country in the first half of 2019 for allegedly violating local laws prohibiting blasphemy, anti-judiciary content, defamation, and condemnation of the country’s independence, a local news outlet reported on Wednesday.

Facebook’s latest transparency report revealed that while content restrictions decreased from 35,972 to 17,807 globally this year, 58 per cent of censorship requests originated from Pakistan and Mexico.

In the second half of 2018, Facebook had restricted 4,174 items on the request of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) but this year the number increased by 1,516, amounting to 31 per cent of the global censorship requests.

Facebook suspended 5,376 posts, 128 pages and groups, six profiles and two comments. On Instagram, the platform restricted a total of 178 items — 171 posts and seven accounts whereas only nine items had been restricted the preceding year. The government sent 1,849 data requests and sought data of 2,594 users/accounts. Of the total requests, 1,674 were processed legally.

Facebook said that it received a request from PTA to remove 23 items alleged to violate local laws prohibiting blasphemy and after reviewing the content, it took action against five items for violating the Facebook Community Standards. “Based on the report from the PTA, we also restricted access to three items in Pakistan. Three of the items reported were duplicates, and we took no action on the remaining 12 unique items,” the report added.

In January this year, PTA lodged a formal takedown request for two Facebook posts, which it said constituted illegal obscenity under the Section 37 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). The social media giant, however, initially stated that the posts did not violate its community standards but after an assessment of the Pakistan’s local laws, restricted access to those posts within the country.

Facebook also accepts government requests to preserve account information pending receipt of formal legal process. “When we receive a preservation request, we will preserve a temporary snapshot of the relevant account information but will not disclose any of the preserved records unless and until we receive formal and valid legal process,” the report stated.

During the first half of this year, the Pakistan government sent 400 preservation requests and specified 483 users/accounts compared to the platform.


Facebook removed 3.2 billion fake accounts between April and September this year, along with millions of posts depicting child abuse and suicide.

That more than doubles the number of fake accounts taken down during the same period last year, when 1.55 billion accounts were removed.

The world’s biggest social network also disclosed for the first time how many posts it removed from popular photo-sharing app Instagram, which has been identified as a growing area of concern about fake news by disinformation researchers.

Proactive detection of violating content was lower across all categories on Instagram than on Facebook’s flagship app, where the company initially implemented many of its detection tools, the company said in its fourth content moderation report.

For example, the company said it proactively detected content affiliated with terrorist organisations 98.5 per cent of the time on Facebook and 92.2 per cent of the time on Instagram.

It removed more than 11.6 million pieces of content depicting child nudity and sexual exploitation of children on Facebook and 754,000 pieces on Instagram during the third quarter.

Facebook also added data on actions it took around content involving self-harm for the first time in the report. It said it had removed about 2.5 million posts in the third quarter that depicted or encouraged suicide or self-injury.

The company also removed about 4.4 million pieces involving drug sales during the quarter.