Twitter ends its censorship of ‘blasphemous’ tweets and users following success of #TwitterTheocracy campaign

18 June, 2014

Twitter has unblocked a number of tweets and users of its service, which it had blocked on 18  May following requests from Pakistan, following last week’s successful campaign, led by a number of humanist and non-religious organisations. The British Humanist Association (BHA) was a signatory to a letter addressed to the UN Ambassador for Pakistan calling for Pakistan to honour its commitments to freedom of expression under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was also a key promoter of the #TwitterTheocracy hashtag and of the Ex-Muslims of North America’s petition to Twitter.

Twitter had been complying with requests from Pakistan which blocked tweets deemed by its local authorities to denigrate Islam, or which were otherwise ‘blasphemous’ or ‘unethical’.

In a statement made yesterday, Twitter said:

‘We always strive to make the best, most informed decisions we can when we’re compelled to reactively withhold identified content in specific jurisdictions around the world. On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Consistent with our longstanding policies we provided notice to all of the affected account holders and published the actioned takedown requests on Chilling Effects to maximize transparency regarding our decision. We have re-examined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan.’

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal welcomed the move, saying ‘It should not have taken a public campaign for Twitter to see sense and end its bizarre collusion with suppressors of free speech, but we are nevertheless pleased that it has now changed its policy on this matter. However, the battle for free expression is not over. Pakistan is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims freedom of expression to be an inalienable human right, but its existing blasphemy laws breach these commitments. According to the annual IHEU Freedom of Thought Report, Pakistan is one of thirteen countries where apostasy is punishable by death, and in Pakistan’s case this is only because it sets an extraordinarily low bar and an obscenely high penalty for infractions of its strict blasphemy code. We call on Pakistan to revise these laws in accordance with the international treaties it is part of. ’


For further information or comment, contact Pavan Dhaliwal Head of Public Affairs at or on 0773 843 5059.

Read the letter to the Ambassador:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.