Pakistan may relax bans on YouTube, Facebook

The country may block only parts of these sites that it considers derogatory

The Pakistan government is considering removing a ban on YouTube and Facebook, a senior minister said on Wednesday.

In a post on his recently opened Twitter account, Rehman Malik, the country's interior minister, said that the Pakistan cabinet, which met on Wednesday, had accepted his proposal to block only the objectionable sections of the two Web sites.

Media reports from Pakistan on Wednesday quoted Pakistani officials, including Malik, as saying that the ban would be lifted in the next few days, after blocking the offensive content.

Facebook was blocked in Pakistan on Wednesday last week by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), after instructions from the High Court in Lahore and the Pakistan government.

Pakistanis took to the streets in protest against a page on Facebook, called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" which invited users to draw cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Some Islamic traditions prohibit depictions of Mohammed.

On Thursday, PTA also ordered YouTube to be blocked for displaying "sacrilegious" content. It said it had also blocked more than 450 links on the Internet that contained derogatory material.

The controversial Facebook page also ran into protests from Muslims in India. A Facebook spokeswoman said on Sunday in an e-mail that it had decided to restrict access to the page from India out of respect for local regulations, standards and customs, after it was contacted by authorities in India.

Facebook may consider IP blocking in Pakistan upon further review of local regulations, standards and customs, she added.

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John Ribeiro

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