Voice of America earlier this week reported that in its effort to combat cyber extremism, Pakistan has launched an application allowing people to report websites that are publishing extremist content and hate speech.
The mobile application called Surfsafe, is available on iOS and Android devices, and has been developed by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).
Speaking to Voice of America, Director at NACTA, Ehsan Ghani said,
“Strict enforcement of cybercrime laws is absolutely necessary to overcome this massive challenge of online extremism. Surfsafe is a step in that direction. People, unfortunately, at times get attracted to extremist ideologies without even realizing it. Through this program [application], we will create awareness and block online materials involved in provoking extremism in any capacity.”
Despite the implementation of cybercrime laws, there are groups still operating in the country that stand in violation of the same. The launch of Surfsafe comes as part of the implementation plan under the National Action Plan, set in 2015 as a means to crackdown terrorism and extremism.
Surfsafe is a part of the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), adopted in 2015 to crackdown on terrorism and extremism. Though this may seem like a positive initiative coming from the government side, representatives from digital advocacy side including Nighat Dad and Shahzad Ahmad, believe that these initiatives will be of little use since the issue at hand is rather complex, and there’s a lack of political will in catering to this.
Bytes for All Director, Shahzad Ahmad, whilst speaking to Voice of America, said that these said groups of people have become very tech-savvy, and their outreach is in big numbers.
Just last year, the government had announced its move in requesting the likes of Facebook and Twitter to block pages that were promoting hate speech, violence and blasphemy.
In January 2018, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority released a public advisory notice stating “Internet/Social Media Users: Do exercise your right to freedom of speech and expression but do not commit an offence (Blasphemy, Hate Speech, Violence, Extremism).” The notice, available on the PTA website, also gave an outline of the punishments against sections of the Pakistan Penal Code.
To report any blasphemous or contemptuous content, PTA can be approached directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adding to the same lines, Ehsan Ghani said,
“In order to enforce Surfsafe fully, the government will continue to contact social media networks to take down pages and accounts involved in inciting hatred and terror. This is a matter of our national security.”