The Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) has been doing its magic and making pages vanish from Facebook. Without any prior warning or contact, the PTA specifically targeted pages which contain liberal, progressive and secular content. Facebook pages such as “talibansarezalims” and “Pakistani.meme” are known for their anti-extremism stance, and support for democracy. Just what pushed the PTA to act against them while turning a blind eye towards several pages which support terrorist groups, propagate religious extremism and preach hate against minorities?

Soon after the blockade of some popular pages by Facebook, social media started to make a noise which proved loud enough to be picked up by the mainstream media. Facebook was compelled to clarify that it had blocked the page on PTA’s request. PTA denied it right away. The regulatory authority had been put in the spotlight by the very social media it was crusading against. Embarrassed and unable to provide any justifications, it lifted the ban.

An issue which must be addressed here is PTA’s obvious ideological tilt. Liberals and their views are already under assault. The mainstream media and the larger society has become an extremely hostile place which refuses to accommodate and consider their opinion. In the face of growing extremism, they have retreated to their bubble; the internet. Now, an ideologically biased regulatory authority is threatening to completely shut them out. The PTA cannot be allowed to play the thought police and work on a conservative agenda which stands in opposition to basic human rights and civil liberties. It must back off, refrain from passing subjective judgments and becoming a tool in the hands of those who wish to hold a monopoly over ideas and speech. The government must ensure that regulatory authorities do not exercise internet censorship based on personal affiliations. A culture of rights and liberties is necessary for a democratic society to flourish and progress. Silencing liberal and moderates will not make Pakistan great, but will only push us further into the abyss.