Facebook’s Vice President is in Pakistan to Discuss Issue of Blasphemous Content

In a major development regarding efforts being made for countering and removing sacrilegious content from social media, the Interior Minister Friday received Vice President of Facebook, Mr. Joel Kaplan, and discussed various steps and actions being taken to remove blasphemous content that is illegal in Pakistan, the Interior Ministry said.

Facebook, on its part, has reiterated its commitment to keep the platform safe and promote values that are in congruence with its Community Standards. It also committed to remove fake accounts, explicit, hateful and provocative material that incites violence and terrorism.

Giving details of the meeting, the Spokesperson of the Interior Ministry said that it was the first time a senior member of Facebook management dealing with Global Public Policy had visited Pakistan to discuss the way forwards and address the issue of misuse of social media platforms, especially Facebook, which has over 33 million users in Pakistan at the moment.

The Interior Minister has been playing a proactive role in engaging the internet service providers and finding solutions to the issue of misuse of social media, said the spokesperson,. This also included convening of a special meeting of the Ambassadors of the Muslim countries in March on a single point agenda to discuss blasphemous content on social media and how to effectively raise voice of the entire Muslim world against the madness unleashed against Islam and holy personalities in the name of freedom of expression. This was followed by a meeting of the Minister with Secretary General OIC on 11 April 2017 on this issue.

The Spokesperson said that while talking to the Vice President, the Interior Minister said that the entire Muslim Ummah was greatly disturbed and has serious concerns over the misuse of social media platforms to propagate blasphemous content. “Nothing is more sacred to us than our religion and our holy personalities”, observed the Minister.

He said that the government of Pakistan firmly believes in freedom of expression but it cannot allow anyone to misuse social media to hurt religious sentiments or undertake unlawful activities.

The Minister said that “we appreciate the understanding shown by the Facebook administration and the cooperation being extended to us on these issues.”

The Minister also appreciated Facebook for bridging communication gaps and providing people a platform not only to interact but also serving as a vehicle for promotion of education, businesses, socio-economic development and empowering women in the country.

To further this purpose in Pakistan, the Interior Minister also encouraged Facebook to open up offices in Pakistan. Local offices of service providers would not only help them extend their outreach but would also be instrumental in bringing the government and the service providers further closer to each other and forge a mutually beneficial partnership, continued the Minister.

During the meeting Mr. Kaplan highlighted various initiatives of Facebook that are aimed at skill development and economic growth programs in Pakistan. These involve working with developers, small businesses and women in the country.

He said that Facebook’s Developers Circles – a free community-led program for developers to connect, learn and collaborate with other local developers – have been started in Lahore and Karachi and would be launched in Islamabad soon. Lahore is one of the largest Developer Circles in the world with more than 2000 community members.

Mr. Kaplan also informed the Minister that Facebook has recently launched a digital literacy campaign called iChamp with a goal to touch secondary schools on a mass scale across Pakistan to educate youth on the benefits and safe use of internet. The program will be supported by Facebook’s Free Basic project, which provides free access to dozens of websites. Covering 76 districts across all four provinces, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, an estimated 6,00,000 students will be trained by experts through Free Basics with free handbooks and other resources.

The Minister appreciated various initiatives of Facebook and observed that there was a need to further strengthen collaboration by exploring new avenues of cooperation.