Freedom Network demands restoration of X, slams caretaker Govt

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Freedom Network demands restoration of X, slams caretaker Govt

The unannounced block on the social networking site X, which has been unavailable in Pakistan since February 17 for unclear reasons, was dubbed by media watchdog Freedom Network as direct state-led censorship meant to restrict people’s freedom of expression.

The limit on X comes a few days after a stunning ban on mobile phones and mobile internet was implemented on February 8, 2024, election day. The block prevented voters from using technology to conveniently go to polling places.

The government had to view X as a threat and shut it down without explaining due to political, economic, and security issues as well as suspicions of election cheating that surfaced from the February 8 elections.

Not only that, but other social media platforms, mobile services, and the internet frequently experience blackouts, which prompts everyone from the president to specialists and the media to regular people to question the sudden disruption and label it as an attempt to stifle opinions.

The Freedom Network entered the chorus asking for citizens to have access to the platform, saying in a news release that “no other entity is responsible for this undeclared censorship of X than the federal caretaker government, which is proving to violate the fundamental rights of citizens of this country.”
“The public access to the social networking platform must be restored without any further delay as the ban goes contrary to the caretaker government’s plans to digitalize the country,” the media watchdog organization said.

It demanded that the government quit infringing on the public’s digital rights.

Since former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaqat Chattha resigned on Saturday because of what he claimed to be “election rigging” in the Rawalpindi division, X has not been accessible.

According to media sources, the platform was not available in Lahore, Islamabad, or Karachi, but it “remained sporadically accessible in some cities.”

IT and AI strategist and consultant Khawaja Fahad Shakeel shared his thoughts with The Express Tribune, stating that disrupting X will have technical, social, and economic ramifications for the nation. The 2024 general elections, former Rawalpindi Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chatha, and similar events are examples of how it is utilized to set trends.

Additionally, Shakeel said, that every major organization and political parties use social media uses, which is used by watchdogs and international media to monitor and assess trends. “They stop creating trends and rankings significantly decline if it is blocked.”

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are not well known to the general public, he stated, stressing that only about 2 or 3% of Pakistani internet users were competent in employing VPNs to access social media sites. “People are negatively impacted when they lack access to information,” Shakeel stated.

The call center, software development, SEO marketing, and social media sectors comprise the IT sector, according to Shakeel. He also mentioned that when X went down, IT companies had to shift their brand marketing to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Khurram Shehzad, the CEO of Alpha Beta Core and an economic analyst, claimed that marketing companies were making the most of social media and that businesses and the nation’s reputation suffered if even one app went down.

“These days, social media is much more powerful; if it is blocked, it harms people, including foreigners, businesses, and investors.”

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