Two decades deep into the 21st century, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) should have learnt by now that policing the internet is not a simple matter of resources and numbers. Picketing traffic on main thoroughfares and shuttering hostile printing presses and broadcast stations would’ve been sufficient to control unwanted narratives a few short decades ago, but now the transfer of information online has become a much more different beast. Try as one might, this beast cannot be tamed outright, and the regulator would do well realize the true cost of attempting such a thing.

On Friday the PTA told a Senate panel that the government should either increase the body’s “technical capabilities” or block social media websites in the country, as China and UAE have done, in order to stop the circulation of “blasphemous content”. The regulator knows the difficulties; only a radical step – such as blocking all social media sites – will stem the free flow of information, and that too will not stop it all.

The question the body must ask itself is; are such solutions proportional to the problem? Blasphemous content is certainly an issue and the PTA has done a commendable job of keeping it off the major social media sites. Of the problems that are a side-effect of the internet age, many rank low on the scale of urgency and immediate danger. Furthermore, the solutions presented don’t solve the problem but rather cause incalculable damage to the ecosystem of human interaction that has developed around social media sides.

When the rewards are so miniscule and the harm so immense, it would be prudent to abandon such proposals and focus on more realistic ways to deal with such problems. Partnering with social media sites to deal with the worst is a more practical path; their priorities may be scattered but they have been extremely cooperative.

Similarly, resources that would have been devoted to such impossible tasks can now be used to deal with real, urgent issues such as cybercrime; as the PTA admits, it only has 15 cyber experts on board.