Facebook admits censoring content in Pakistan

Facebook said today it has blocked users in Pakistan from accessing the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" page on its site out of respect for local standards and customs.

The Web site adopted a similar approach in India about a week ago when it was approached by Indian authorities in connection with the page, which has angered Muslims in many countries.

The indications are that Facebook may take a similar approach in Bangladesh, where the Web site has been blocked since Sunday.

"We have not removed the content from Facebook, although some pages may have been removed by their creators, but have only restricted access to it from certain countries out of respect for local rules," Facebook spokeswoman Debbie Frost wrote in an e-mail on Tuesday.

The page invited users to post cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. Depictions of the Prophet are prohibited in some Muslim traditions.

On Monday a High Court in Lahore, Pakistan, ordered the removal of the block on the site that had been imposed on May 19.

Facebook has agreed to block the page in Pakistan, Naguibullah Malik, Pakistan's secretary of IT and telecom, said in a telephone interview on Monday.

The government will continue to block any offensive or derogatory content found on the Web, Malik said. Last week Pakistan lifted a total block on YouTube but said objectionable content on the web site will continue to be blocked.

After reviewing the situation, including information from the government of Pakistan that confirms Pakistani law in this area, Facebook decided to prevent the 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day !' page from being viewed by users in Pakistan out of respect for local standards and customs, Frost said.

When dealing with user-generated content on global websites, there are occasions where content that is illegal in one country is not illegal in another, and may even be protected there by law, Facebook said. Most companies approach this issue by preventing certain content from being shown to users in the countries where it is illegal, and that is Facebook's approach, the company said.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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