Pakistan blocks social media platform X for national security reasons

The government stated that the ban was imposed because X failed to comply with lawful directives and address concerns about platform misuse.

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Pakistan’s interior ministry confirmed that it had blocked access to the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) around February’s national election due to national security concerns. Despite reports from users experiencing difficulties accessing X since mid-February, the government has not officially acknowledged the shutdown. The interior ministry made this revelation in a written submission to the Islamabad High Court, responding to a petitioner’s plea challenging the ban.

The ministry cited X’s alleged failure to comply with lawful directives and address concerns regarding platform misuse as reasons for imposing the ban. According to the ministry, X was reluctant to resolve these issues, prompting the government’s decision to uphold national security, maintain public order, and preserve the country’s integrity.

Why does it matter?

The temporary ban on X coincided with the 8 February national election, contested by the party that jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, alleging rigging. Khan’s party heavily relies on social media platforms for communication, especially after facing censorship by traditional media ahead of the polls. Khan, with over 20 million followers on X, remains prominent despite being incarcerated on multiple convictions preceding the election.

The decision to block X was based on confidential reports from Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies, which indicated nefarious intentions by hostile elements on the platform to create chaos and instability in the country. This move has raised concerns among rights groups and marketing advertisers, with activists arguing that such restrictions hinder democratic accountability and access to real-time information crucial for public discourse and transparency. Marketing consultants also highlight challenges in convincing Pakistani advertisers to use X for brand communications due to governmental restrictions on the platform.