Pakistan Block Facebook - an Exercise in Futility

I don't know if you've been watching this develop over the last few days, but the Pakistan blocking Facebook saga is still running.   The story centers around a page set up on Facebook by someone called "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day!" which appeared last Thursday and went viral pretty soon after.  The page encouraged users to draw the prophet Mohammed and submit to the picture to the page.   It was inspired by a couple of things apparently the threats made against the creators of South Park by a radical Muslim group for depicting Mohammed in a bear suit (that sentence is ridiculous on so many levels !).   The second reason is supplied by a Seattle Cartoonist called Molly Norris who drew a cartoon - "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day".

Right, anyway I want to stay away from the religious side although I have some  view on this, but it's not what this blog is about.  But I will instead focus on the amazing ability of those who wish to censor what we see, read and watch on  the internet to fail to grasp the fundamentals of how the internet actually works.

If I want to reach millions of people across the planet, the internet is obviously the place to start.  I can put up a web page with whatever views I like but nobody will see them initially, it's like designing a poster  in secret and standing in an empty room.

Even if that web page is extremely controversial, maybe millions of people are offended by it, millions agree with it, it still needs publicity, it needs to spread - in internet terms it needs to go viral to reach millions of people.  Well the chap in the image is just what you need, a bit of outrage.  How about a court case in Lahore led by important religious lawyers resulting in a ruling that  the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has to block access to Facebook  due to your page.  That's just perfect you can't lose now.

Incredible really that someone sitting at their computer can offend an entire nation, and set in place a huge pantomime all across the planet.  These people just don't understand the internet,  simply put if a government wants to control access to everything anyone says or does, then they need to completely ban access to the web.   Some lawyer in Lahore may think he's protecting his religion by bringing in a ruling to ban facebook in Pakistan but he's actually doing precisely the opposite.  The legal action was the guarantee that this page would go viral,  the page they try to block is being advertised to the world.

It won't even work in Pakistan, they've sent millions more people across the planet to view the page they find offensive and in Pakistan anyone who wants to can use any of the circumvention tools anyway.   I was speaking to a friend in Karachi who uses Identity Cloaker and they were completely unaware of the ban (and had been wasting time on facebook as normal) !

You CANNOT BLOCK ACCESS to specific content online, the PTA also blocked access to YouTube. Flickr, Wikipedia and many other sharing sites which had republished content from the page.   Unfortunately for them the internet is not like the libraries of old - you just can't burn them all down if you don't like the books inside.  Words, and ideas spread and can appear in a thousand different web sites in hours, what do you do block everything - it is the only option if you want to censor the internet effectively.

Have a look at this little snippet of some of the websites blocked in Pakistan, can you sense the desperation as the Techie guys desperately try to block individual URLs that reference the offensive material.

I can imagine them blocking url after url then say "sod it" better block the whole domain as facebook, youtube bite the dust.  But the content is still out there and anyone who want to can view it all.  If you want to see a list of web sites apparently blocked in Pakistan (although likely this will change hourly) you can see one here - list of Pakistan Blocked Web Sites.

If you scroll through the list you'll find the vast majority are proxy services, the web sites that help you view the internet as it is, not the one that your government would prefer you visited.  In the end it's probably not about religion so much as control I suspect.

To finish on a positive point, if you are in a country that blocks Facebook like Pakistan then there is a simple solution for you.   Just download the free demonstration version of Identity Cloaker, it's fully functioning although you can only access a few websites though it - but one of them is Facebook - you can download it here - Identity Cloaker Demo Version


Bibi rK said...

I used identity cloaker, but facebook has prompted me to verify my location, which i can not since it's asking me to write out the captions, and i cannot see those captions- what should i do?

Welshgadgets said...

Hi Bibi,

It sounds like your doing the initial facebook verification stage when you open a new account?

I think people sometimes get problems with this stage - drop me a line using the contact us button and I'll see if I can help.