Pakistan lifts block on Twitter

Country restores access after briefly blocking microblogging site over "blasphemous" posts involving caricatures of Prophet Mohammed, report says.

Pakistan has restored access to Twitter after briefly blocking it on Sunday due to "blasphemous" caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed posted related to a Facebook contest.

The AFP reported on Monday that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked the microblogging site on Sunday from orders by the IT ministry, after Twitter allegedly refused to remove the offensive posts, which were "trying to hurt Muslim feelings", from its online platform.

PTA spokesperson Mohammad Younis Khan said in the report that both Facebook and Twitter were approached to take down the posts. Only Facebook agreed to while Twitter did not respond, he added.

Facebook confirmed in the report that it had blocked some content in Pakistan upon the authorities' request. "Out of respect for local laws, traditions and cultures, we may occasionally restrict [some contents'] visibility in the countries where it is illegal, as we have done in this case," a spokesperson said.

Access to Twitter was subsequently restored that same evening, several hours after it was cut off. The reason for lifting the block was not clear and Khan said it was the IT Ministry's decision.

AFP said the brief ban on Twitter, which is used by public figures in Pakistan, sparked anger and many citizens managed to circumvent the restrictions and post on the site.

This is not the first time Pakistan has sought to ban online content. Last February, the government blocked 13,000 "obscene" Web sites, calling it a "serious issue". A ministerial committee and sub-committee were also formed to look into the matter of how to block such sites.

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