June 2, 2020 — In the wake of the protests as a result of the lynching of three boys on May 30 in Quetta, the authorities have suspended the mobile-based internet in the city in attempts to ‘control the spread of hate speech and incitement of violence’.
The news was shared on Twitter by concerned residents who called the order “unnecessary”, and demanded immediate restoration of the services in the region. The order, as circulated on the internet, outlines suspension of mobile internet, including 3G/4G, CDMA and WLL (Wireless Local Loop) connections from June 1 at 5:00 PM local time through June 3 at 2:00 PM local time.
The order specifies “shutdown/blockage” of the aforementioned services through 20 KM radius of Quetta city.
Asad Baig, Director and co-founder of Media Matters for Democracy, says, “time and again we have observed that administrations across the world resort to network shutdowns to control the law and order situations. There is no direct evidence that shows the efficacy of network shutdowns in controlling law and order.”
As the world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, online platforms are proving to be essential for not only daily activities like studies and work, but also for accessing healthcare and related information.
Baig is of the view that internet shutdowns only amplify confusion and promote misinformation and disinformation that could further advance violence on the ground. “The Internet has become a primary source of information for individuals around the world. Access to information becomes more important during emergencies. It is, thus, even more important to maintain access to the Internet during crisis. However, it is the job of social media platforms to immediately take off hate content that has a likelihood of inciting violence and creating harm”, he added.
Hija is a Programs Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. She combines her experience in digital rights in Pakistan to lead digital rights and internet governance advocacy of MMfD. She tweets at @hijakamran