Update: Access to Twitter has been restored.
Pakistan has blocked Twitter because someone holding a drawing competition might run images of the Prophet Mohammed on the site, a no-no in the Islamic faith. Facebook apparently has agreed to take down the offending images while Twitter has not, according to a Packistani official quoted by the Associated Press. From the AP story:
[Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication’s Authority] said Facebook agreed to address Pakistan’s concerns about the competition, but officials have failed to get Twitter to do the same.
“We have been negotiating with them until last night, but they did not agree to remove the stuff, so we had to block it,” said Yaseen.
Instructions to block the site came from Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology, said Yaseen.
Such culture clashes are not uncommon on the web or even as people use the web to share their ideas. While it may seem like a violation of someone’s freedom of expression to remove offensive images from a Twitter account, other countries have laws that might be construed the same way. Several web sites including Yahoo have run afoul of laws in France (and in other European countries) that prohibit denying the Holocaust. Meanwhile, here in the U.S. Facebook regularly has to deal with culture clashes caused by the different values of its users.
The challenge is our morals are running into each other on the web and forcing companies and governments to compromise or get out of Dodge — see Google in China or Iran deciding to build its own Internet. Much like the first year of university is an eye-opening mix of new people and cultures that students have to adapt to, the web forces different people and their ideals together. So Pakistan blocking Twitter is kind of like that guy on your dorm floor who rips down the posters by the elevator that he doesn’t like.
The question is, will he grow out of it by the end of the year or will he retreat further into his dislike of whatever was on those posters to begin with? The Internet provides a venue for argument, but it also provides an opportunity for learning and an eventual resolution. It’s up to users, governments and companies to take that opportunity.