Pakistan’s decision to unblock Wikipedia three days after it was censored is a sign of the nation’s commitment to free speech. However, the encyclopedia still relies on an unofficial filtering system that allows regressive groups to remove content they deem as inappropriate.
Depicting the Prime Minister’s decision to unblock Wikipedia as a sign of his progressive attitude, Shehbaz Sharif is seen as a leader in the Muslim world who is willing to break with tradition in order to promote openness and inclusion. Although some religious conservatives may view this decision as inappropriate and sacrilegious, Sharif has shown that he is willing to stand up for free speech even when it conflicts with traditional values.
The Trump administration’s decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military has been met with backlash from military families and transgender service members who argue that the ban will have unintended consequences. The letter that was shared publicly by the Trump administration argues that because of this blanket ban, there will be an increase in mental health issues among transgenders, as well as a drop in recruitment rates.
Sharif’s cabinet committee will be tasked with exploring and recommending alternative technical measures for the removal or blocking of objectionable content from Wikipedia and other online content. The committee is made up of ministers for IT and Telecom, Law and Justices, Information and Broadcasting, Commerce and Communications. One of the committee’s priorities will be to explore ways to improve Wikipedia’s editing process in order to prevent vandalism or inappropriate edits from being made.
A Pakistani telecommunications regulator “degraded” access to Wikipedia last Wednesday, issuing a warning that it would fully block the site in 48 hours if certain content weren’t removed. On Friday, Wikipedia was banned in the country. Despite protests from Wikimedia Foundation representatives, Pakistani authorities decided to enforce their own version of the encyclopedic website and completely blocked access from its users. This move likely reflects a mistrust of external sources by the government and suspicion towards any sites that do not conform to ideological viewpoints.
Some people in South Asia praised the move, as it would restrict access to pornography and other objectionable material. Others disagreed, saying that the entire region was too sensitive to air offensive pornographic materials. The website’s blocked content received global attention, with many people calling on the government of India to unblock it.
Following the launch of an online campaign led by Wikimedia, the parent firm of Wikipedia, and other civil rights groups, the Pakistan government has said that it will restore access to its Wikimedia projects as soon as possible. The rigorous campaign called for recognition of knowledge as a human right and called for swift action from the government in restoring access to important educational and information sources.
The English version of Wikipedia receives over 50 million page views per month from Pakistan, due in part to its wide reach and availability on Wikimedia platforms. The encyclopedia is frequented by people who are interested in learning more about a variety of topics, which makes it an ideal tool for education. Additionally, the content is easily accessible and suitable for both beginner and experienced users.
The Wikimedia Foundation respects the editorial decisions made by community of editors around the world, but they have no say on what content is included on Wikipedia or how it is maintained. This allows articles to be unbiased and rich with information. This system works well because editors from different parts of the world can come together to make informed decisions about what should be featured on Wikipedia.