Facebook blocks access in India to controversial page

Facebook is already banned in Pakistan because of the page which has invited cartoons of Prophet Mohammed

Facebook has blocked in India the controversial "Everybody draw Mohammed Day!" page that last week led to the site being banned in Pakistan.

The move follows protests by Muslims in the country over the page which invites users to put up caricatures of Prophet Mohammed.

"Out of respect for the local regulations, standards and customs, we have decided to restrict access to the ‘Everyone Draw Mohammed!’ page from India, after being contacted by authorities and reviewing the matter closely," a spokeswoman for Facebook said on Sunday in an email.

We have not removed the Page from Facebook, but have only restricted access to it from India," she added.

The page was inaccessible from India from late Saturday.

Officials at India’s Departments of Telecommunications and Ministry of Home Affairs said on Sunday that they were not aware of the Indian government blocking the site. The country’s Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 allows the government to block web sites under certain conditions.

Access to Facebook was restricted on Wednesday in Pakistan by the local regulator, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Earlier, a court in the country had instructed the government to block the site. On Thursday, PTA also blocked YouTube, citing sacrilegious content on the video-streaming Web site.

Facebook may consider IP blocking in Pakistan after further review of local regulations, standards and customs, the Facebook spokeswoman said on Sunday.

A move to block the page in Pakistan would be in line with Facebook’s stated policy on the issue.

When dealing with user-generated content on global Web sites, there are occasions where content that is illegal in one country is not, or may even be protected, in another, Facebook said on Thursday. Most companies, including Facebook, approach this issue by preventing certain content from being shown to users in the countries where it is illegal, it added.

The "Everyone Draw Mohammed!" page had 112,541 fans and 12,983 photos on Sunday. The page was however brought down on Thursday for two days by a page moderator who got scared after his e-mail and Skype account was hacked into, and his personal data revealed, according to a post on the page on Saturday.

The page has spawned a number of look-alike pages on Facebook with the same or similar names, as well as pages opposing it.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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