YouTube video blocked in more countries, as Google faces legal threats

Google has blocked access to the controversial video in five countries

The number of countries where a controversial movie trailer on YouTube has been blocked increased to five by Monday, as Google ran into legal threats in some of these countries.

Malaysia is the latest country in which Google has blocked the YouTube video, which mocks the Prophet Muhammad, according to the state-controlled news agency Bernama. The government had earlier demanded that Google block the video in the country, threatening the company with action under local laws.

The country's information, communications and culture minister, Rais Yatim, was reported by Bernama on Monday to have said in a statement that the public prosecutor had every right under the country's penal code "to book quarters who cause disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will on grounds of religion between groups of persons."

The minister added that the powers of the authorities under the Communications and Multimedia Act could also be invoked against YouTube, which had shown itself "oblivious to the tumult it had caused."

Google did not immediately confirm whether it had blocked the movie trailer in Malaysia.

The 14-minute video trailer has caused protests at U.S. embassies and consulates in various countries including Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the video. Carney said the U.S. does not and cannot stop individual citizens from expressing their views.

The video was filmed in the U.S. by a person, or people, whose identity has yet to be established, according to some reports.

"Of what avail is th [sic] US speech freedom if in its extension the religion of others is rediculed [sic] and reduced to mockery?," Rais wrote in a message on Twitter. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google also blocked the video on Friday in Indonesia and India. Earlier it had blocked it in Egypt and Libya.

The company said in a statement on Friday that it had restricted access to the video in countries where it is illegal, such as India and Indonesia, as well as in Libya and Egypt given the very sensitive situations in these two countries.

Four Americans including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, were killed last week when a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was stormed by gunmen.

In India, where Google and other Internet companies were sued in December by private individuals for other content alleged to be objectionable on its websites, Google responded last week to an order from a court in Jammu and Kashmir and blocked the video in the country, according to a source.

YouTube users in the country, trying to view the video, are now referred to a support page that states that the video-sharing site does on occasion block specific content in order to comply with local laws. "For instance, certain Nazi imagery is unlawful in parts of Europe," it added.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have initiated their own blocks of the controversial video.

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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