Bids have now been sent in response to a proposal request put forward by the National ICT R&D Fund in Pakistan. The propsal? To implement a “national-level URL filtering and blocking system” to filter out “undesirable content”. The original proposal invite stated the following:
“Internet access in Pakistan is mostly unrestricted and unfiltered. The Internet traffic is coming from two IP backbone providers, i.e., PTCL and TWA. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and backbone providers
have currently deployed manual URL filtering and blocking mechanism in order to block the specific
URLs containing undesirable content as notified by PTA from time to time.
Many countries have deployed web filtering and blocking systems at the Internet backbones within their
countries. However, Pakistani ISPs and backbone providers have expressed their inability to block
millions of undesirable web sites using current manual blocking systems. A national URL filtering and
blocking system is therefore required to be deployed at national IP backbone of the country.”
Internet filtering is of course not a new issue (hint hint), but what’s different here is no one really knows who’s actually submitted their bids to the Pakistani government. In Silicon Valley however, internet security powerhouse Websense put out an official statement stating that the company would not submit a response to the proposal and urged other companies to do the same and “do the right thing for the citizens of Pakistan”.
Whether or not there are any successful responses to this proposal remains to be seen, but what’s clear is that any company who is awarded the contract will certainly come under heavy scrutiny from the tech industry.