Pakistan blocks YouTube over unIslamic content
May 20, 2010 Leave a comment
By SEBASTIAN ABBOT (AP)
ISLAMABAD — The Pakistani government blocked access to YouTube on Thursday because of “sacrilegious” content in a growing Internet crackdown against sites deemed offensive to the country’s majority Muslim population.
The move against the video-sharing website came a day after the government blocked access to Facebook amid anger over a page on the social networking site that encourages users to post images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Islam prohibits any images of the prophet.
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority did not point to specific material on YouTube that prompted it to block the site, only citing “growing sacrilegious contents.” The government acted against both Facebook and YouTube after it failed to persuade the websites to remove the “derogatory material,” the regulatory body said in a statement.
It welcomed representatives from the two websites to contact the Pakistani government to resolve the dispute in a way that “ensures religious harmony and respect.”
The regulatory body said it has blocked more than 450 Internet links containing offensive material, but it is unclear how many of the links were blocked in the last two days.
Access to the online encyclopedia site Wikipedia also was restricted Thursday, but it was not clear if the government had intended to do so. The head of the Pakistani telecommunications company Nayatel, Wahajus Siraj, said the restriction resulted from a technical glitch.
Online reaction to the Facebook ban was supportive in the initial hours after it was implemented. But comments on Twitter — which was still unblocked Thursday and drawing new users thanks to bans on other sites — showed many Internet users were angry about the wide-ranging restrictions.
“Sad and embarrassing day in the history of Pakistan. Tough times to be a Pakistani. Questionable decisions in a so called ‘democracy,'” one user tweeted.
Pakistan blocked access to YouTube for two days in 2008 because of what it said was unIslamic content. Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia and Morocco have all blocked access to YouTube in the past for various reasons.
It remains to be seen how successful the government will be at keeping Pakistan’s nearly 20 million Internet users from accessing the blocked sites. Other countries, such as China, permanently ban Facebook and YouTube. But citizens often have little trouble working their way around the ban using proxy servers and other means.
“What’s common to Facebook and Lashkar-e-Taiba?” one user on Twitter wrote, referring to a Pakistani militant group that is banned but has an alleged front group that operates openly. “They are both banned in Pakistan, but Pakistanis can still find them if they want to.”
Associated Press writers Anita Chang and Chris Brummitt contributed to this report.