Pakistan has one of the largest internet consuming community in the region which has grown to 30 million over the years. The social network users in the country range from anywhere between 6 and 10 million according to various estimates. Although majority of internet content published in Pakistan is in English language but recently a lot has been made available in Urdu and some content in regional languages as well. With the growing popularity of internet which provides free access to information and acts as a tool to disseminate alternative opinions, it is not surprising that the state considers at it a threat. Although Pakistan’s mainstream media is widely believed to be independent, but the state attempts to control through tactics like installing mouthpieces in print and digital media and occasionally curbing free journalism with tactics as brutal as abduction and killing of journalists – Saleem Shahzad being the prime example of this strategy.
While the state continues to use new media and internet to propagate its discourse, it has not stopped there. The state of Pakistan has been curbing freedom of speech on the internet by blocking websites and social media initiatives which propagate an alternative opinion, going against the discourse of the state. According to a report, Netsweeper technology is being implemented in Pakistan for purposes of political and social filtering, including websites of secessionist movements, sensitive religious topics, and independent media. In addition to using Netsweeper technology to block websites, it was found that local ISPs also use other less transparent methods such as DNS tampering to block content. Bolo Bhi, a Pakistani NGO wrote to western surveillance technology companies informing them that selling the technology to the Pakistan government would be a human rights violation and demanded a commitment. Despite protests and campaigns by Pakistani groups like Bytes for All and Bolo Bhi claiming these censorship tools are an attack on human rights and freedom of speech; technology companies which create and sell internet censorship products refused to cease their relationship with Pakistani state.