India also blocks controversial video on YouTube

Google has said the video which is also blocked in Pakistan and Afghanistan does not violate its guidelines for content on YouTube

India has also blocked a controversial YouTube film trailer that mocks the Prophet Muhammad, a source at the Internet Service Providers Association of India said Friday.

The video which sparked protests at U.S. missions in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen earlier this week, was to be blocked in Pakistan on Thursday. Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, said on Tuesday in a Twitter message that the YouTube video would be blocked in the country, though the video-sharing site would not be blocked.

The authenticity of the full film, "Innocence of Muslims" has been called into question since protests outside U.S. embassies began, but the trailer has continued to circulate on the Internet and by Thursday had 1.3 million views on YouTube.

"We received the order from the government on Thursday to block links to the video on YouTube," said the ISPAI source who declined to be named. The trailer was not accessible on Friday in India through most ISPs.

India and other countries are taking decisions to block the trailer through local Internet service providers, as Google has said the video, which is widely available on the Web, is clearly within its guidelines and so will stay on YouTube.

The Internet company however drew an exception in Egypt and Libya, stating that given the very difficult situation in these countries it had temporarily restricted access in both countries. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed when a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was stormed by gunmen.

"We have orders from the ministry of IT and communications to block whatever links are there to this video clip," a spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said on Wednesday.

India has a long-standing dispute with Internet companies over the availability online of content it considers objectionable. The government is worried that controversial religious content could trigger communal violence. But civil rights groups claim the government wants to stifle political dissent. Many Internet companies typically argue that the websites are run by their parent companies in the U.S., and not by the Indian operations.

In December, the country's Minister for Communications, Kapil Sibal, said that some of the Internet companies were allowing content that would fail to live up to the laws that they are enforcing in their own country by their own community standards. The controversy resurfaced last month when some thousands of people from the northeast fled cities like Bangalore to go back home after warnings online and through SMS (short message service) that they would be attacked by Muslims in retaliation for attacks against them by local people in Assam.

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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