Pakistan has called on Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistani users who post "blasphemous content" on their platforms. Facebook has agreed to send a delegation to Pakistan to address the country's concerns over blasphemous and objectionable content on its site, the Ministry of Interior said. Any person found guilty of insulting Islam or Prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death under the country's stringent blasphemy laws.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the removal and blocking of all "blasphemous" content on social media earlier this week and urged swift and strict punishment for people posting such content.
"The blasphemous content on social media is a nefarious conspiracy to hurt the religious sentiments of entire Muslim ummah," Sharif said, adding that it is an "unpardonable offence".
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said an official in Pakistan's Washington embassy has already contacted Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistanis, both within the country and abroad, who have shared blasphemous or offensive material on their sites.
He vowed to take "any steps necessary" to "eliminate" blasphemous content from social media sites and ensure that Pakistan's message gets across.
"Such content has been posted on social media websites for years. I am surprised that no other Muslim country raised the issue till now," he said, the Dawn newspaper reports. "We will take any steps necessary to make sure that our message against such content gets across to those websites as well as the rest of the world."
"Facebook and other service providers should share all information about the people behind this blasphemous content with us," he continued. "We are working on both tracks to ensure that those who have committed these crimes do not get away scot-free while the innocent do not get sucked into the matter."
The minister said he has asked Pakistan's Foreign Office to appoint a representative in the US to communicate with the FBI as well as Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis regarding the issue.
"Apart from all these measures, I still warn that we will take the matter to whatever end is necessary if these platforms do not comply with our demands," the minister said.
He added that 11 Pakistanis have been identified for questioning over alleged blasphemy and have been summoned for questioning. Pakistan will seek the extradition of anyone living abroad who is accused of spreading blasphemous content.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Facebook said it carefully reviews all government requests "with the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users".
"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," the company said.
Twitter reportedly declined an AP request for comment.
Back in 2010, a Pakistani court blocked Facebook within its borders following a fierce backlash after a competition page encouraged users to post drawings of Prophet Muhammad.