Twitter agreed to five requests made from Pakistan to ban tweets that are considered "blasphemous" and "unethical" in the country.
The ban requests were sent by Abdul Batin of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority between the dates of May 5 and May 14, and included Twitter accounts that focused on anti-Islamic movements, desecrated images of the Prophet Mohammad and the account of Belle Knox, an adult film star and a freshman at Duke University.
This is the first time that Twitter used its capability to "ban specific content in specific countries" for Pakistan. The ban is suggested to be in anticipation of the criticized Draw Prophet Muhammad Day, which will be held for the fourth year on May 20.
The policy, which was released by Twitter in 2012, was recently used in Russia to block the country from the account of an ultranationalist group from Ukraine. Twitter has also blocked in Germany the account of a neo-Nazi group.
However, criticisms on the Pakistan bans are being criticized as they appear to not have gone through due process.
"If there was federal authorization for these requests, then in the interest of transparency, the relevant bodies should make public the legal process followed to route these requests. Who initiated the complaint, where was the complaint made, who forwarded it and what law specifically was cited for removal," said Bolo Bhi, a Pakistan advocacy group.
Twitter goes for the lesser evil in certain instances. It might be a better decision to block specific tweets and accounts that could be in violation of local laws and beliefs rather than have the site blocked in some countries.
Since Twitter does not have any employees or assets in Pakistan, the company did not have to comply with the ban requests, noted the Electronic Frontier Foundation. However, if the company refuses to grant the ban request, Twitter as a whole may be blocked in Pakistan, as the country has done in the past.
This week, a Pakistan edition of the International New York Times contained a large blank space in lieu of an editorial article entitles "Pakistan's Tyranny of Blasphemy.
Twitter has a database where it compiles every ban request that it receives. Named the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, it is maintained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and eight law schools in America.
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, on the other hand, has dedicated a page on its website where citizens can report blasphemous online content.