New threat to Christians? Pakistan asks Facebook to help crack down on 'blasphemy' online

Pakistan has asked Facebook to help investigate 'blasphemous content' posted online.

The social network has agreed to send a team to Pakistan to address the government's reservations, the interior ministry claimed, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promising a crackdown.

Protesters hold up placards while demanding the release of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy.Reuters

Blasphemy laws are highly contentious in Pakistan with breaches often leading to mob riots and extra-judicial killings.

Christians and other minority groups are targeted under the controversial laws, human rights groups claim.

But Pakistan's interior minister Chaudhry Nisar vowed he would take 'any steps necessary' to ban blasphemous content online and wants Facebook to help identify those posting it. 

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'Facebook and other service providers should share all information about the people behind this blasphemous content with us,' he is quoted as saying in local media.

Previous convictions for blasphemy have included criticism of the Quran and drawings of the Islamic prophet Muhammed.

Aneeqa Anthony, chief executive of Christian persecution charity The Voice Society, said if enforced the blasphemy ban must apply to all religious groups.

"If Government is taking this initiative than it should be for all religions because everyone is having the same religious feelings for their respective religions,' she told Christian Today. 'Law and rules shall be for everyone, without the discrimination of majority and minority [groups].'

Facebook has not commented on the claims it is sending a team to Pakistan. But a statement quoted by AP said the social media site viewed government requests with care keeping in mind 'the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users'.

Facebook said: 'We disclose information about accounts solely in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law. A Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty or other formal request may be required for international requests, and we include these in our Government Requests Report.'

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