YouTube users in Pakistan should have a reason to celebrate. After almost a year, the country’s government is set to soon lift the prohibition it imposed to the video-sharing Website. According to some government officials, the online site would be unblocked probably as early as next month.
However, Pakistan is not granting full access of local users to YouTube. It would roll out URL filters that would selectively prohibit sharing of controversial content. Pakistan Telecommunication Company would provide this service for a year for free and collect charges after that duration. By now, there are up to 4,000 URLs with objectionable content that would be continuously banned locally.
The Ministry of IT would formally coordinate with the office of the prime minister to seek approval for this proposal. It would ask to block specific controversial videos instead of prohibiting the entire YouTube from being accessed in the country. This process is expected to last a week.
Pakistan banned YouTube in the country in September last year. The action was a consequence of the video-sharing site’s refusal to remove a controversial video that was tagged as offensive to Islam. The controversial movie, ‘The Innocence of Muslims,’ prompted demonstrations in many Middle Eastern countries because of its strong anti-Muslim content.
That time, Google defended its stance not to censor the video for local posting in Pakistan because the company did not find any evidence that it breaches YouTube’s terms and conditions. Aside from that, Google cited that it does not hold a local YouTube version. Because YouTube does not operate a local office in the country, it has no staff that would monitor and manage its local content.
Lifting of bans
The same ban was actually cancelled in December last year. However, it was reinstated just after 5 minutes. That was because some users found that the controversial anti-Islam short film was still posted and still readily accessible in the Website through the replicated copies on other users’ accounts. Many hope that this time, a technical solution would finally be implemented to block that video from being shared in Pakistan.
In 2008, Pakistan had already blocked YouTube due to posting of another short film that explored possible links between terrorism and Islam. The short movie was produced by Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament. However, that ban was temporary and was lifted in just a short time.