Pakistan Overblocking



Not content to block Yahoo’s hosting service causing tens of thousands of websites to be blocked, it is now being reported that the Pakistan’s ITI is now blocking some Akamai servers. Because they block by IP address, all other content hosted on the server will also be blocked. This has resulted in massive overblocking.

The PTCL starting blocking Internet Protocols at its key gateway—ITI Karachi—(technically termed Router) which handles 95 per cent or more of Pakistan’s Internet traffic passes. The Internet-users have been facing problems intermittently in accessing websites of CNN, BBC, Yahoo, Microsoft, download.com, Symantecs, etc.

In other words, the PTCL has blocked some sites of www.akamai.net at their Karachi gateway exchange. Akamai.net has hundreds of servers, hosted across the globe, to provide content to a myriad of websites.

I’ve found that when a handful of sites are blocked, (the number of officially blocked websites is fairly low the orders sent to ISP’s here, here and here) many people don’t really care. What they don’t realize is that inevitably sites that were never intended to be blocked will be blocked and once in place it is far too tempting for governments not to extend the use of filtering regardless of the original justification for implementing it.

Overblocking tends to create a significant backlash, especially from non-activist Internet users. While people can often tolerate the blocking of some sites (often extremist, or offensive etc…) it does not significantly impact the experience of everyday users. But when people’s regular browsing and blogging is interrupted they quickly become aware of censorship’s impact and campaign against it. An excellent example has been the “Don’t Block the Blog” campaign in Pakistan which was started after Pakistan blocked access to Blogspot. pkblogs.com offers an alternate means of accessing Blogspot, bypassing the ITI’s filtering.

However, in response the authorities will often seek to implement filtering techniques that better target the specific sites they want to blocking while minimizing the overblocking. We’ve seen the case in India, for example, where public outcry about overblocking led the authorities to send out instructions on DNS tampering so that IP blocking could be avoided. Hopefully, even when Pakistan refines its filtering techniques and does not block all of Blogspot, Yahoo’s hosting, and Akamai the movement against Internet censorship will be strong enough to continue the struggle against it.

3 comments.

  1. […] The Internet Censorship Explorer (ICE) wrote on March 5, 2007: Overblocking tends to create a significant backlash, especially from […]

  2. […] The Internet Censorship Explorer (ICE) wrote on March 5, 2007: Overblocking tends to create a significant backlash, especially from […]

  3. […] The Internet Censorship Explorer (ICE) wrote on March 5, 2007: Overblocking tends to create a significant backlash, especially from […]

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