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Censorship in Pakistan: How to Bypass Social Media Blocks

Last updated: February 1, 2024 14 min read
Censorship in Pakistan: How to Bypass Social Media Blocks

Internet censorship in Pakistan has increased significantly in recent years. The Government takes control of users’ internet consumption and blocks various streaming platforms and social media networks. Learn why the Pakistani government does so. Explore the secrets to successfully navigating social media restrictions in Pakistan and learn workarounds for bypassing censorship on your preferred networks.

In Pakistan, severe restrictions on internet freedom and censorship are still commonplace. Thousands of websites are blocked yearly, and the government owns a significant portion of the media. The government has a close grip on online media through stringent censorship and frequent internet outages. Furthermore, censorship and fines are used to restrict freedom of expression. People in Pakistan thus have several barriers to using the internet freely.

The easiest way to browse the internet securely and get around internet restrictions is by using a VPN. With ExtremeVPN, you can browse the web anonymously using a server address from anywhere, such as the US, UK, or Canada, while concealing your IP address and location. You can access websites and applications blocked in Pakistan using a foreign IP address. This article discusses censorship in Pakistan in detail and provides Pakistani citizens with the best solutions to maintain their security and privacy and access anything they want.

Overview: Pakistan’s Current Censorship Situation

  • Pakistan controls what its citizens view on the internet using IP address blocking, HTTP proxies, and DNS interference.
  • In Pakistan, porn is forbidden. As a result, over 150,000 websites that included “salacious content” were blocked.
  • Many well-known websites and applications, such as Reddit subreddits, DeviantArt, Fanfiction.net, Grindr, and Tinder, are blocked in Pakistan.
  • Pakistan is among the most deadly nations in the world for journalists, with a rate of three to four homicides annually, sometimes linked to criminal activity or corruption.

Pakistani citizens must use virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass government surveillance and access blocked websites. With a 30-day trial available for new customers, ExtremeVPN is the best VPN for Pakistan. Our application helps you unblock websites and platforms with a single click.

Growing Pakistani Internet Monitoring and Censorship

In Pakistan, restricting electronic and print media is not a recent phenomenon. Despite the internet being supposed to democratize the media, stringent digital media control has taken hold.

  • Over a million URLs were banned in Pakistan in 2021 because of “inappropriate content.” It includes criticism of Islam, anti-government views, and pornographic material.
  • The PECA Ordinance blocks public slander against governmental officers in cyberspace. The continuance in 2022, defamation creeps out of bail on the grounds of the ordinance, and too much is levied against it, up to five years in jail.
  • In 2022, a woman was sentenced to death for transmitting “blasphemous” messages on WhatsApp. It is estimated that over 80 people have died in the court of blasphemy since 1990. Among the victims are the accused, their relations, solicitors, and more or even a few judges.
  • In May 2023, the Pakistani government arrested more than 4,000 people under Imran Khan’s rule, including representatives of opposition political parties and demonstrators. Human Rights Watch points out that this was done on the grounds with doubtful significance as safeguarding national safety and social concord.

Behaviour Towards Pakistani Internet Activists and Journalists

Journalism in Pakistan is not only marked with sensational killings of reporters but also with potential abuse and danger, especially when reporting on sensitive issues.

  • On International Women’s Day in March 2018, campaigners for women’s rights were attacked at the Aurat Azadi March, also known as the Women’s Emancipation March. Extremists of a certain religion were captured on camera hurling shoes, bricks, sticks, and stones.
  • Pakistani journalists constitute the majority of their colleagues who practice self-censorship. Particularly, up to 88% of them do it while covering religious or military forces, according to Abdul Shakoor’s study conducted in 2018 (Machalaba n.d). However, as reported by two-thirds of journalists, their jobs had brought threats or assaults against them.
  • Journalists are not safe in Pakistan. The Pakistani Information Ministry stated in 2023 that during the previous four years, at least 42 journalists had died in Pakistan. Only one of these incidents resulted in the murder suspect’s arrest.

Frequent Restrictions of Social Networking Sites in Pakistan

In Pakistan, several applications and websites are either restricted indefinitely or momentarily.

  • Several dating apps, including Grindr, Skout, SayHi, Tinder, and Tagged, were prohibited in Pakistan in 2020 because of their “immoral” and “indecent” content. Prominent websites such as DeviantArt and Fanfiction.net, along with some Reddit subreddits, are prohibited in Pakistan.
  • Social media networks started to strictly filter material in 2021 when Pakistan passed the Blocking and Removal of Illegal Material Rules, giving authorities the authority to censor at whim.
  • Google got 5,083 requests for content removal from Pakistan in 2022. More than 95% of the removal requests originated with the PTA.

Why is the Internet Censored in Pakistan?

Pakistani internet censorship affects blogs and websites that encourage religious or political conflict. Pornographic and anti-Islamic content are also subject to filtering, according to information from the Open Observatory of Network Interference. This censoring is purportedly motivated by the need to safeguard national security and stop disseminating false information. But there are also underlying reasons for this:

  1. Suppress political opposition by forbidding criticism of the policies followed by the state, security services, or police.
  2. Preserve the state religion’s moral standards by prohibiting offensive or unacceptable information.

The PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) has also taken steps recently to prohibit censorship-evading technologies like VPNs and proxies. Internet users may freely browse the web thanks to these services.

What Content is Subject to Censorship in Pakistan?

The Pakistani government believes itself to be a strongly religious state and asserts that its main goal is to restrict secular viewpoints and Islamic satire. Occasionally, though, political reasons may be behind a ban or other internet restrictions.

Social Media Platforms

The Pakistani government frequently blocks social media sites, severely restricting the freedom of expression of its people. The government blocks popular applications like Facebook and Twitter during political disturbances, such as demonstrations. Twitter and Facebook were among the content-sharing and social media websites the Pakistani government prohibited in 2018. This shutdown was a reaction to the violent protests of Tehreek-e-Labaik.

There are limits on the amount of free internet access available to Pakistani people by the country’s main mobile and fixed-line service providers. Furthermore, residents cannot access information disseminated on social networks due to frequent internet shutdowns.

Satire

The PTA also regulates websites including satirical humor that criticize Islam, Pakistan’s prime minister, and the country’s administration. There will be a redirect when you attempt to visit such websites. When you search for Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, from within Pakistan, you will see the following message: “Be Safe While Surfing! It is not possible to view the website. The website you are attempting to visit has content legally forbidden for visitors in Pakistan.”

Anti-Islamic Content

In Pakistan, a country where Muslims predominate, they filter almost 25% of banned pages for insulting “Islamic morality” or criticizing Islam. In a well-known case in 2015, anti-terrorism authorities sentenced Rizwan and Saqlain Haider to thirteen years in jail for posting on Facebook “hateful comments against the comrades of the Prophet Mohammed.” Defiling the Quran carries a lifelong jail term under the Blasphemy Law. The penalty for slandering the Prophet Muhammad is death.

Pornography

As of 2022, the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority has blocked access to more than 150,000 pages and websites featuring “salacious content,” and Pakistan still bans pornography. The government blocks most pornographic subreddits on websites like Reddit, along with general sexual and nudity material.

How Does the Pakistani Government Censor the Internet?

There are several options available to the Pakistani government for internet censorship. They not only work with ISPs to obstruct particular websites or material, but they also have extensive legal justification for their conduct. Additionally, social media firms are not immune to censorship. Pakistan has a history of censoring major websites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and others.

Surveillance

Their security forces monitor the internet and digital communications of Pakistani residents. They can store personal information for up to one year and share it with foreign authorities. The Pakistani FIA can also access and decode telecom users’ traffic data with the help of PECA, which permits the FIA to seize data and equipment without a warrant.

The Pakistani government has invested in FinFisher and other technologies that allow remote monitoring, including keylogging, password gathering, and microphone or webcam access, to listen in on private conversations.

Legislation

Pakistan has implemented several legal measures that impose censorship and make internet dissidents criminals.

LegislationDescription
Penal CodeHate speech is illegal under the Pakistan Penal Code, especially on social media platforms. It cannot incite “hostility, animosity, or malice between diverse religious, racial, linguistic, or local groups, castes, or communities.”
Anti-terrorism ActIn other incidents, the government prosecuted people under the Anti-Terrorism Act’s Section 11-W for spreading “morally objectionable” content on Facebook.
PECA (Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act)PECA gives the military, the PTA, and the Pakistani government the authority to block illegal internet content for national security. Article 20 of the Penal Extension and Compensation Act (PECA) stipulates that the authorities of Pakistan may punish up to 10 million rupees (more than $120,000) and up to five years in jail for defamation offenses in digital areas. The use of the law frequently silences online commenters.

State-owned Infrastructure

The government holds major authority over Pakistan’s internet connectivity. The Pakistan Internet Exchange, which the government-owned Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited governs, controls most of Pakistan’s internet infrastructure.

As long as most of the country’s internet traffic passes via the PIE, the PTCL may enforce stringent licensing requirements on domestic ISPs, compelling them to abide by censorship orders from the PTA.

DNS Tampering, Website Blocking, and HTTP Proxies

The PTA blocks a huge number of websites with the following methods:

  1. DNS Tampering: Often known as DNS spoofing, it is a method that sends particular site requests to phony or other websites. The website’s DNS (Domain Name System) address that the Pakistani government wants to prohibit is spoofing, directing users to a different URL.
  2. Website Blocking: An ISP must only add the website’s IP address to its blocklist to ban a website. The ISP will disconnect your connection while you are attempting to access it, rendering the website unreachable.
  3. HTTP Proxies: HTTP proxies are a class of very effective content filters. They are in between the web server and your browser. A Pakistani network provider can use an HTTP proxy to filter content by intercepting requests and preventing users from accessing the website.

The PTCL enforces the banning orders on all local broadband and mobile networks through strict licensing requirements.

Get Around Censorship: How to Unblock Websites in Pakistan

Pakistan’s internet restrictions violate human rights. Understanding how to get around these limitations securely is critical whether you reside in Pakistan or intend to visit the country. There are several methods to circumvent censorship:

  1. Use a reliable VPN service. Use a reliable VPN service to encrypt your personal information and online activity. ExtremeVPN masks your IP address, helps you get around geographical limitations, stops tracking, and handles other security issues.
  2. Use a proxy. Another option is using a proxy. Proxies circumvent limitations by replacing your IP address with a new one. ExtremeVPN offers the best proxy in the world, having blazing-fast servers that bypass every restriction within seconds. Remember that VPNs offer more security than proxies. Although you may employ it to get around censorship, it might reveal who you are.
  3. Use the Tor browser. Your IP address is hidden using a network of encrypted nodes called the Onion Router (Tor). In areas with a lot of censorship, the media business uses it. Since using the Tor browser carries some danger, we advise familiarising yourself with it beforehand.

How Does VPN Bypass Censorship?

Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, provide a reliable method to circumvent censorship and access internet information that government or regional restrictions might block. A better grasp of a VPN’s operation allows one to see how well it blocks censorship.

A VPN creates a safe, encrypted tunnel between the user’s device and a distant server. This encrypted route guarantees that any data transmitted across the tunnel remains encrypted and incomprehensible to potential eavesdroppers. Consequently, this layer of defense keeps users’ online activity safe from restriction and monitoring.

ExtremeVPN – The Best VPN Choice for Pakistan

ExtremeVPN outranks any other VPN service in bypassing restrictions and censorship. It has a vast server network spanning over 78 countries and includes 6500+ servers worldwide. ExtremeVPN works with all widely used devices. It offers user-friendly iOS, Android, Windows, Routers, and Mac apps. Also, you can connect up to ten devices at once.

Users of ExtremeVPN may obtain help whenever they need it because of their round-the-clock customer service. The support staff at ExtremeVPN is always ready to help customers with problems. Users may contact ExtremeVPN through email, social media, and live chat.

Features like split tunneling, a kill switch, 256-AES encryption, IPv6 leak prevention, DNS leak protection, a no-logs policy, and more are advantageous to consumers. Customers may enjoy everything they want without worrying about data restrictions with ExtremeVPN’s unlimited bandwidth plan.

If you’re unhappy with ExtremeVPN’s services, you can get your money back with our risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee. Thanks to ExtremeVPN’s cost-effective pricing choices, users may obtain internet privacy without spending additional money.

How to Download ExtremeVPN on Android/iPhone

  1. Get the ExtremeVPN app from the Play Store or App Store.
  2. Create your account on ExtremeVPN.
  3. Subscribe to one of its Paid plans.
  4. Check the servers list and connect to a secure server of your choice.
  5. Start browsing.

How to Download ExtremeVPN on a Windows PC

  1. Visit the ExtremeVPN website on your preferred browser.
  2. Go to “Pricing” and subscribe to a plan of your choice.
  3. Download the ExtremeVPN app for PC.
  4. Launch the app and sign in using your credentials.
  5. Connect to a server of your choice and start browsing.

The fact you can safely accept that Pakistan recognizes a VPN as secure and legal is undeniable. The PTA stated in 2022 that it will require registration of VPNs moving onwards. The announcement states that “freelancers, foreign missions, and public and private entities who desire to work with [a] VPN for legal reasons are supposed to be registered.” 

Pakistani residents claim that no resident here has been arrested and punished to sort out the problems created by individuals who use VPNs for personal use.

Criteria to Select the Best VPN for Pakistan

A VPN for Pakistan must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Server network and unblocking capacities: The higher your capacity to connect with international websites and apps, the larger your VPN server networks will get. Using the VPN for Pakistan, authorities can unlock everything made illegal, including porn as well as news websites.
  • Affordability: This is one of the main points. Everyone has access to security for use online. ExtremeVPN provides the best value for your money at an affordable price.
  • Obfuscated servers: Some of the best VPN companies, like ExtremeVPN, provide obfuscated servers, which can help skirt a ban on VP. These VPN servers camouflage the intrusion traffic, using techniques developed and updated to be more effective than onsite implementations. Hence, network supervisors have more difficulty detecting and blocking such traffic.
  • Mobile app and ease of use: You will likely use your mobile device through your VPN. First, the interface of VPN software should be as intuitive and easy to navigate as possible; secondly, you need a high-quality customer support team to solve your problems on time.
  • Privacy and security: With the extremely limited freedom for press and speech rights as well as possible devastating outcomes of free expression, a VPN for Pakistan must feature a verified zero-log service allied to using the most secure protocols, OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, and WireGuard. Ensure that your VPN is genuine, hiding the real IP address.

Conclusion

In Pakistan, there is an increment in torturing medics and internet critics. The number of censorship and monitoring increases, and if these individuals challenge the established order, they will have to pay dearly for heresy. Press freedoms, like privacy rights, are at risk. Using a VPN is essential to respect one’s anonymity online while accessing private websites and applications. If Pakistan is the country under discussion, then ExtremeVPN is your best bet.

While a VPN is a great way to hide your identity, it doesn’t do much for you if you tell people what or how you think. Would you like to know what it feels like using a VPN to browse the web? Try ExtremeVPN, which guarantees to return money within 30 days after obtaining it; you could independently test how to prevent Pakistani restrictions.

FAQs

Why does Pakistan censor the internet? Up
To stop political dissent and criticism of the state’s religion and government, the government of Pakistan filters the internet. The ultra-nationalistic regime supports it as an instrument of control. In Pakistan, censorship has been increasing in the last few years.
Are VPNs illegal in Pakistan? Up
Using a VPN is legal in Pakistan as the government regulates the use of it. Furthermore, laws always change, so the legality of using VPN in Pakistan can change.
How does Pakistan censor the internet? Up
In Pakistan, the state restricts access to the Internet by blocking websites, surveilling data traffic, owning the Internet infrastructure, removing content, and attacking journalists. The PECA is the primary law in Pakistan that controls internet filtering and attempts to stifle political and religious criticism.
Which VPN is the best for Pakistan? Up
ExtremeVPN is the finest VPN for Pakistan. You may browse the internet privately with our VPN, which unblocks all popular websites and has great security features.
How can I bypass censorship in Pakistan? Up
Using a VPN is Pakistan’s most secure and straightforward method of circumventing internet restrictions. By changing your virtual location and hiding your online identity, ExtremeVPN enables you to access restricted information from anywhere.
Will a free VPN work in Pakistan? Up
Strangely, the whole point of using a VPN to safeguard your privacy has failed because many free VPNs make money by gathering and selling your browser history to unaffiliated third parties. Using the free VPN is not worthwhile since this data collection can lead to targeted advertisements, privacy violations, and even identity theft. It is best to use a reliable and secure VPN provider like ExtremeVPN.

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About the Author

Samuel is a freelance journalist with over a decade's experience in the VPN industry and digital mar...
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