A temporary solution to the drama that unfolded this morning when Twitter was blocked in Pakistan — some believe over representations of the Prophet Mohammed and Twitter’s refusal to block these images; and some believe while it was testing an image filtering service. Whatever it was, the site is now back up –after an order from Prime Minister.
Pakistan’s Express Tribune is reporting that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani made the decision after the site was down for the day on a mandate from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. But it is still not clear why the authorities shut down access in the first place.
As we reported earlier today, some reports — still unconfirmed directly by any Pakistani authorities (we have reached out on this) — said that the government was concerned about images of the Prophet that were being tweeted as part of an activist campaign in support of the freedom of expression among Muslims and in Muslim countries.
A move to quash sites that facilitate Muslim activism is not unprecedented, so it is very plausible here. However, others have raised an issue about whether it might be something else: they allege that authorities were testing an image-blocking service. In other words: potentially equally restrictive, but different from the specific Prophet drawing campaign.
The whole event sparked off a huge amount of negative response both within Pakistan and further afield. In the country itself, more technically savvy / better equipped users were able to continue accessing the site: it still worked on the Opera Mini browser via the mobile Internet, according to several reports. But otherwise, access across the country was denied.
Since we still don’t know why access was denied in the first place, it’s hard to say whether the public outcry had a role to play here. Nevertheless, it’s a very encouraging sign when you see people coming together so quickly around an issue.
We’ll continue trying to figure out what exactly happened and for those in Pakistan returning to the Twitterverse, welcome back!
[Image: TakeBackPakistan, Flickr]