Web users in many countries across the globe experience censorship to some degree. China is a much heralded example of internet censorship as the country banned many sites including Facebook and YouTube. Pakistan's 20 million internet users already experience a degree of restricted web access; however, present censorship is less restrictive than in many other countries in Asia and the Arab world. Of the most concern to government regulators are sites that display adult content, those that display material offensive to Islam, websites supporting separatist activities, and sites offering criticisms of the government's army. However, the Pakistani government is now running advertisements for companies to configure and filtering system for the internet in the country that would block a reported 50 million sites. This has raised concerns from activists of free speech in the country.
The extent to which the new proposed regulations would restrict free speech in internet use is seemingly up for debate. Activists clearly feel this could be an indication of more and deeper censorship to come. This feeling is only supported by other proposals set forth by a media regulatory entity that that would bring television under tighter government oversight. On the other side, the government's Information Minister dismisses these claims and the director of Pakistan's ISP association contended that future restrictions would not equate to more censorship.
The impact on SEO would most likely be minimal, that is, for the non-blocked sites as searches of non-sensitive material would still function in the same way. As a result, an SEO company serving the Pakistani market will still be able to offer their services and assist a business to rank higher in SERPs and drive more traffic to their website. What is disconcerting however is the potential state of the internet in Pakistan if more censoring follows. Further, if more censorship discourages general internet use, then this could potentially impact the viability of internet businesses in the country. It is unclear what direction the country will head in relating to internet restrictions, but future decisions are sure to follow and have implications on the industry.