In order to monitor the country’s internet traffic and all the users, the Islamabad High Court in March of 2017 had ordered the top leadership of the country to become pro-active on the issue for raising a national ‘firewall.’
The directions for the national firewall had come when Justice Shaukat Aziz Sidiqui inquired from all the officials in attendance what preventive measures were there if a war is waged through social media.
The decision had come when Facebook on the request of the Pakistani Government had removed 85% of the blasphemous content but there was still 15 % that remained on the social media platform. However banning Facebook was not the solution according to Minster of Interior Chaudhry Nissar Ali Khan.
Recently, it has been reported that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is planning to develop and setup a turn-key Technical solution named “Web Management Solution (WMS)”, at a national level for identifying and blocking access to the objectionable internet content and websites.
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The regulator has already sent out requests for proposal, for the development and deployment of the national firewall. According to the authority WMS will be indentifying and blocking content on the following topics: Blasphemous, Pornographic, Indecent or immoral, Anti-State, Contempt of court, Law and order, Incitement to an offense, Sectarian, and others as stated in law for time being in force to be described unlawful according to Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (PECA).
The features that PTA requires for WMS are that it should come with the ability to identify IP addresses and information about users who are accessing unlawful and objectionable content; it should display a warning to the user upon accessing unlawful web content. Furthermore it should have the ability to restrict delivery of unlawful content to the public without affecting any other content being served by the same server, site or domain.
Applications are being sought by PTA from various service providers for complete deployment of the software, management and maintenance.
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Futhermore, PTA wants the selected solution providers to provide training to designated PTA Human Resource for carrying out Hardware and Software configuration and Operations of the WMS. Also PTA or its designated team should be able to easily operate WMS and configure changes to tailor the solution for on-going developments in the field. The WMS should be robust and scalable for supporting increases in International bandwidth and newer Internet technologies/protocols.
PTA wants WMS hardware and software support at no cost for a period of (03) three years. The regulating authority has given the deadline of 8th March to the interested service providers to submit their technical proposals along with budgets.
It is also worth mentioning that in n 2012, National ICT R&D Fund, now known as Ignite, on the behalf of the government had decided to develop a National URL Blocking and Filtering System mainly to block objectionable and unlawful content on the internet. But the decision had caused quite the uproar by digital and human rights associations and due to the severe public pressure, the $10 million project was abandoned by the Fund shortly after the Request for Proposals (RFPs) was published.
Over the past few years Pakistan has seen many efforts regarding the censorship of the internet when the Supreme Court of Pakistan had taken the notice and asked PTA two years back to block over four hundred thousand websites. Furthermore, the Cyber Crime Bill was also introduced in 2016 to monitor unlawful content on the internet but also introduced punishments for unlawful activities via the internet.
The entire tender that has been issued by PTA can be found here.