Reports came in this morning that Twitter has been blocked in Pakistan due to tweets regarding a competition to post depictions of the Prophet Muhammad — an act that many believe to be blasphemous. According to BBC News the country's Ministry of Information Technology directed internet service providers to block access to the site, and there's no word when the service will come back online. The competition itself was apparently hosted on Facebook, and the Associated Press reports that social network "agreed to address Pakistan's concerns," while the same cannot be said for Twitter. Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the country's Telecommunication's Authority said that "We have been negotiating with them until last night, but they did not agree to remove the stuff, so we had to block it."
It's not clear why it ultimately came to the point that the Pakistani government needed to instruct ISPs to block access to Twitter across the country. The social network announced back in January that it had a new system that enabled the ability to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis, allowing it to comply with local laws. However, Twitter made clear at the time that it would only take advantage of the feature when it receives what it believes to be a "valid and applicable legal request." The Interior Minister of Pakistan apparently thought that a deal would be struck, as he (rather ironically) tweeted out an assurance to the country's people that neither Twitter nor Facebook would be blocked. We'll update the story when we hear more on the situation, though it may take a while for the block to be lifted — the government prevented access to Facebook on a similar claim for two weeks back in 2010.
Update: The Washington Post reports that "the nation's prime minister stepped in to reverse the ban," suggesting that there was some confusion regarding the decision to block Twitter — and who made the ultimate decision to tell ISPs to prevent access to the site.
Dear all, I assure u that Twitter and FB will continue in our countryand it will not be blocked. Pl do not believe in rumors.— Rehman Malik (@SenRehmanMalik) May 19, 2012
Thanks Waqas Ali, androidsucks, and Muhammad Umar!