The news: On the night of May 17, citizens across Pakistan were unable to access the popular microblogging platform, Twitter. Users started having connectivity issues after 10 PM on Twitter and Periscope, which is a video streaming service.
Accountability of government: At the same time, the hashtag #TwitterDown was trending on twitter in Pakistan. Many digital rights advocacy groups and research organizations demanded that the government should take notice of the blockage. Some of these platforms took the opportunity and spoke up against online censorship and restrictions on freedom of speech. Bolo Bhi, an organization that works for the digital rights of Pakistani citizens, tweeted that the blocking of Twitter was concerning for the country, and the government should be more transparent and explain the reasoning behind it.
NetBlocks report: While the reasons for inaccessibility all over Pakistan remain unspecified, many Twitter users have also reported issues accessing popular video conferencing application called ‘Zoom’. An internet observatory, ‘NetBlocks’ collaborated with Digital Rights Foundation and published a report showing that Twitter, Periscope, and Zoom were inaccessible on multiple service provider platforms for a time period of over one hour. The report confirmed that this blockage of all three applications coincided with each other in Pakistan. Even though Zoom users had experienced issues in the software earlier on Sunday, they had been fixed hours before 10 pm when Pakistan started facing disruptions.
Unresolved mystery: According to NetBlocks, the blockage in Pakistan was unrelated to any disruptions that might have been faced earlier in other countries. They also reported that Twitter was unavailable for most users and slowed down for the rest. The image and video servers specifically could not be accessed by users. The official reason behind the mysterious disruption of these online platforms has not been disclosed by the government authorities, service providers, or the networks themselves.