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Pakistan degrades access to Wikipedia and threatens to block it over "sacrilegious" content

Pakistan's tussles with websites where user-generated content is published isn't exactly new. In the past, it has banned YouTube multiple times, banned Bigo Live, pressured Twitter and Facebook to remove certain content, and blocked Tinder and TikTok due to immoral content. Now, Pakistan's government has "degraded" access to Wikipedia due to the platform hosting content deemed as objectionable.

In terms of what degraded access actually means, we tested it on our side and the connection to Wikipedia repeatedly times out regardless of the page you are trying to access. However, this is not a complete block as the page eventually loads but the process is quite cumbersome as it requires a couple of minutes in most cases along with multiple manual refreshes.

The reason for restricting access is the platform hosting content deemed objectionable by Pakistan's government. The degradation is in effect for the next 48 hours but will lead to a permanent block if the aforementioned content is not removed. The full notice from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) can be seen below:

As can be seen above, the PTA claims that it requested Wikipedia to discuss the matter with the regulator but the company did not appear for a hearing and didn't remove the reportedly blasphemous content either. As it stands, Wikipedia has 48 hours to comply with the order before being blocked completely in the country. Details about what content has been deemed objectionable by the government haven't been revealed.

If Wikipedia is blocked, it will cause many difficulties for the citizens of Pakistan as the website is used quite heavily, especially among students. While many will find workarounds such as the use of VPNs, the restriction does add unnecessary challenges. Such type of moves by the government can also lead to the phenomenon known as the Streisand Effect (thank you, Wikipedia), so it remains to be seen how successful this effort is as a whole for the country and its regulatory authorities.

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