Week in Review: June 16, 2017

by Jeanette Si

Pakistan Sentences Man to Death for Blasphemy Over Social Media

As a part of a recent nationwide crackdown on social media, a 30-year-old Pakistani man was sentenced to death for posting “blasphemous” remarks on Facebook, the first such instance in all of Pakistan.

Taimoor Raza, a member of a banned Shiite group, was arrested by counterterrorism officials in April 2016 for allegedly possessing blasphemous content on his mobile phone and showing it to others. These officials claimed that they found Raza to have “committed blasphemy in at least 3,000 posts,” including posts “making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad, his wives and others.”

The strict anti-blasphemy laws have exacerbated religious tensions in the region, inciting vigilante action against “blasphemers” -- in April, a college student was beaten and shot to death by his fellow students after “rumors spread that he had insulted Islam.”

Raza will have the opportunity to appeal this decision, as permitted by the anti-blasphemy law.

There are 66.7 mobile connections per 100 people in Pakistan. See the whole picture with our Pakistan dashboard here

China’s Internet Regulator Reprimanded for “Laxness” 

Following a month-long inspection, China’s Cybersecurity Administration was criticized for “not carr[ying] out General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important instructions and requirements resolutely and promptly enough” by Communist Party inspectors.

Though the exact orders disobeyed were not made clear, they may be related to an April meeting that Xi chaired, in which he called for a “good online ecology” and even tighter regulations.

The attendees, comprised of government internet officials and internet tycoons operating in China, were encouraged to “strengthen governance in cyberspace, improve the construction of online content, [and] enhance online positive propaganda,” among other things.

The first online sphere to be affected by these regulations is entertainment, with censors in Guangdong shutting down 30 celebrity news social media accounts. Censors in Beijing have also banned 60 such accounts. 

Egypt Demands Rider Data from Uber and Ride-Sharing Rival Careem, Blocks 62 More Sites 

Egypt has initiated a campaign to increase its control of media, which involves pressuring transportation companies like Uber and Careem to release rider tracking data and blocking websites which may contain content that “support[s] terrorism and extremism as well as publish lies.”

The Egyptian administration has reportedly made requests of Uber and Careem to grant access to their ride-tracking systems, which show all the rides currently ongoing with the respective companies at any given time. These systems monitor live data about the riders, the drivers, and their destinations, and can be used to track the location of citizens using the service.

Egypt, with a population of 92 million and a low car-to-owner ratio, is a prime market for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Careem. This forces the two companies to choose between violating the privacy of their customers and losing such a profitable market.

Starting two weeks ago, Egyptian censors have been mass-blocking at least 62 webpages, including Al Jazeera, the Arabic version of the Huffington Post, and Medium, an act which violates the Egyptian constitution.

These actions follow after Egypt declared a three-month “state of emergency” after the April attacks on Egyptian churches that killed almost 50 people. During a state of emergency, the president of Egypt is granted additional powers, including “monitoring and intercepting all forms of communication; closing any facility; and imposing restrictions on the freedom of movement for any citizen.”

Only 1% of Egypt has adopted broadband Internet. Check out our curated Egypt dashboard here.