Facebook meets Pakistan government after blasphemy death sentence

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (JULY 7, 2017) (INTERIOR MINISTRY HANDOUT) – A senior Facebook official met with Pakistan’s interior minister on Friday (July 7) to discuss a demand that the company prevent blasphemous content or be blocked.

The meeting comes after a Pakistani counter-terrorism court sentenced a 30-year-old man to death for making blasphemous comments on Facebook, part of a wider crackdown.

Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s Vice President of Public Policy, met Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who offered to approve a Facebook office in Pakistan, which has 33 million users of the network.

Khan said Pakistan believes in freedom of expression, but that does not include insulting Islam or stoking religious tensions. Facebook called the meeting “constructive”.

On the streets of Karachi and Lahore, bystanders who spoke to Reuters agreed that blasphemous material on Facebook was absolutely not acceptable, but opinion was divided over blocking the service altogether.

Pakistan’s social media crack-down is officially aimed at weeding out blasphemy and shutting down accounts promoting terrorism, but civil rights activists say it has also swept up writers and bloggers who criticise the government or military.