Government has tightened its control over Facebook usage in the middle of a crackdown against online blasphemy after 600 percent hike in successful requests for content restrictions this year. The social media giants have officially confirmed the released information.

According to the report of this month, there is increased cooperation for censoring blasphemous content between Pakistan government and Facebook. Authorities in Islamabad has been granted the access from Facebook to user account data and other information.

As per senior Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) official, the increase in Facebook censorship for Pakistani users is a result of long negotiation between the government and the social media company in 2017.

Recent report shows that in the first six months of 2017, Facebook has restricted content around 177 times on its website, marking a 608 % increase in restricted content. While only 25 restrictions were enforced from the corresponding period of 2016.

Pakistani government’s request for data of Facebook users has about 50 percent hike and a 68 percent hike in a request for preservation of user data for a few months. Government and Facebook have requested to compile the data of 1,540 Pakistani users with 63 % requests were accepted, for the first six months of last year. The number of such requests in first six months of 2016 was 1,050. Facebook has preserved for 90 days the account record of 613 Pakistani Facebook users being involved in official criminal investigations in Pakistan.

Based on legal requests from the PTA and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), we restricted access to items that were alleged to violate local laws prohibiting blasphemy and condemnation of the country’s independence,” Facebook said in its report issued on December 18. Earlier this year, Pakistan sought cooperation from Facebook against blasphemous content and a delegation of the company led by Vice President of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan visited the country in July to discuss the issue with the then interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

Facebook has restricted access to items that were alleged to violate local laws prohibiting blasphemy and condemnation to Pakistan on request of PTA and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) facebook reported on December 18.

Last year when bloggers went missing mysteriously, a crackdown has been launched against bloggers and Facebook users. Allegations of blasphemy against them started surfacing after their disappearance on social media. Salman Haider, Asim Saeed, Waqas Goraya, Ahmed Raza Naseer, and Samar Abbas were five missing bloggers that were cleared from blasphemy charges as FIA told Islamabad High Court (IHC) that they have not found any evidence against them.

In April this year, blasphemy allegations have claimed life of a journalism student Mashal Khan at Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan merely because of a controversial Facebook post. No proof has been found by a joint investigation team that Mashal Khan had committed blasphemy. In Pakistan blasphemy against Islam and the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) is a serious crime and punishable by death. Senior PTA official said that in order to control blasphemous content there is an increased Pakistani control over Facebook but in particular the content against national integrity is also restricted.