Court in Pakistan orders YouTube block to continue

YouTube was blocked in September in the country after an anti-Muslim video surfaced

A court in Pakistan has ordered a continuation of the block on YouTube in the country, after the government argued that a removal of the ban would have implications on law and order in the country.

YouTube was banned in Pakistan in September over a controversial video clip, called "Innocence of Muslims," which mocked Prophet Muhammad. The country's telecom regulator said it was blocking the entire site as it was not able to separately block individual URLs (uniform resource locators) linking to copies of the video.

The plaintiff, Bytes For All, Pakistan, has argued that the PTA has Internet filtering technology that is already used to selectively filter Internet content, said Shahzad Ahmad, country director, of the civil rights group on Friday. A report released in June by Citizen Lab, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, claimed, for example, that Pakistan is actively filtering content, with Netsweeper filtering devices actively used to censor content on an ISP-wide level in Pakistan.

Bytes for All had asked the court for an interim order unblocking YouTube. "We wanted the government to go ahead and block the 700 to 800 URLs with the blasphemous content, and remove the block on the rest of the site," Ahmad said. He alleged that the government is intent on continuing to block YouTube as part of its overall plan to control Internet access in the country. The YouTube issue is part of a broader petition by Bytes For All against Internet censorship in the country.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the Lahore High Court noted Thursday that the ban on YouTube is negatively impacting citizens, specially students, and asked the government to resolve the issue with information technology experts, and submit a report by July 25 on how to deal with the blasphemous URLs and make the rest of the platform available, Ahmad said.

Google last year blocked the controversial video in some countries like India and Saudi Arabia where it was illegal, but not in Pakistan where it did not have a local site. The company said at the time that where it had "launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we will restrict access to it after a thorough review."

The Internet company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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