Twitter has had a problematic past when it comes to the content allowed on its platform. Earlier this year, it suspended over 70 million fake accounts, acquired Smyte, and partnered with academic researchers to curb the spread of abusive behavior. More recently, it also announced that it will flag offending tweets that break its rules.
However, Twitter is now under fire in Pakistan, where it is refusing to ban extremist accounts despite pressure from the government.
The past weekend has been quite troublesome in Pakistan, due to protests sparking against the recent court ruling regarding a blasphemy case. While protests regarding sensitive matters are nothing out of the ordinary, what's concerning is that they subsequently turned quite violent. Infrastructure was damaged nationwide - which also lead to loss of human life -, and roads and educational institutes were closed due to fears for public safety.
Even though civil unrest has now subsided due to an agreement reached between the Pakistani government and the protestors, action is still being taken against offenders, especially the religious political party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and its chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who is being accused of inciting violence among people using social media and public speeches.
As such, the government of Pakistan is putting pressure on Twitter to ban the accounts of TLP, which it claims is being used to threaten the state and its institutions. However, the tech company is apparently refusing to comply to the government's requests for reasons currently unknown. The minister for human rights in Pakistan has stated the following:
Just chkd with info Minister who was informed that Twitter refusing our request! https://t.co/LZhbf6OSj2— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) November 4, 2018
Meanwhile, Rizvi has tweeted that TLP isn't dependent on the "biased and controlled" media to spread its message. He has boasted that even if Twitter bans his party's accounts, he will rely on spreading his desired message using religious institutions present in the country.
It is currently unclear as to why Twitter is continuing to refuse the government's requests to ban purportedly extremist accounts. We have reached out to the company for clarification, and will update this article if it responds.
Update: It now appears that Twitter has finally complied to the requests of the Pakistani government, and banned Khadim Hussain Rizvi's account.