The judiciary’s order for blanket censorship of the Internet is bad for the economy. This was an argument first made yesterday on this website, and today The News agrees. In an editorial titled “Sensory Shutdown”, the editors of The News point out that by making blanket blockades of popular Internet sites, the biggest loser will be us.
It is difficult both to comprehend and to underestimate the importance of the Internet to Pakistan not just as a social and educational tool, but as a primary means of conducting trade. The Internet in Pakistan, as elsewhere in the world, has become the way an increasing number of us do business. We communicate using it and many of our small- and medium-sized businesses use Facebook as a place to advertise their wares and attract custom. Blocking access to the entire site smacks of overkill, when we were already blocking the offending URL, had the capacity to block any other link to offensive material and actively monitor proxy workarounds to ensure that the block is effective. Are we to cut off our nose to spite our face? Losing Wikipedia means that thousands of our university students lose one of their primary reference sources and losing YouTube further dims an already bleak entertainment environment. The state can, and arguably should, block blasphemous and offensive material; but there is no need for a blanket sensory shutdown in cyberspace which ultimately degrades, rather than protects, the greater good.