Video controversy: YouTube likely to remain blocked in Pakistan indefinitely

Published: October 3, 2012

Google refuses to block video, govt refuses to unblock YouTube until it does.

KARACHI: Pakistani users of video-sharing website YouTube are caught between an unstoppable force and an immovable object: the government of Pakistan refuses to unblock access to YouTube in the country until Google, which owns the website, restricts access to the video “Innocence of Muslims” in Pakistan, and Google refuses to block access to the video in Pakistan.

Google’s decision not to restrict access to the video in Pakistan, while complying with requests to do so in Indonesia, Egypt, Libya, India, and even Brazil has left many of its users in Pakistan perplexed. The technology blog ProPakistani.pk reports that officials from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority approached Google about taking down the video or at least blocking it in Pakistan, but did not receive a response.

A spokesperson for YouTube, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google, explained, however, that the decision not to block access in Pakistan had to do with the way the company serves content to its Pakistani users.

“We offer a localised version of YouTube in 49 countries around the world. In each localised country (e.g. in Indonesia through www.youtube.co.id), we offer local content that is more relevant to users in that country and we also abide by that country’s laws,” explained the YouTube spokesperson in an e-mail to The Express Tribune. “When we are notified that a video is illegal, we will restrict access to it in that country after a thorough review.”

This localisation policy explains why the video was blocked in other countries but not in Pakistan. “In countries where we are not localised, like Pakistan, people access the global version of YouTube on youtube.com,” she added. This global version of YouTube follows US law, which has the broadest definitions of free speech anywhere in the world.

It seems, however, that officials at the PTA find this explanation to be perplexing. Many of the PTA officials interviewed by ProPakistani said that they do not understand why YouTube cannot use geographic identification techniques – which identify the location of the IP address trying to access a website – and simply block that specific video for Pakistani users.

They cite the example of Facebook, which faced a similar controversy over a competition organised by some US-based users of the website to draw cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Facebook responded to the controversy by blocking the page in countries that requested it to be blocked.

It is likely, however, that the difference in Google’s approach and that of Facebook is explained by the fact that Facebook offers one website to its users worldwide, while Google has made an effort almost from the outset to offer as much customisation by geography as possible for many of its products, and YouTube is no exception.

“It is Google’s goal to offer local versions of YouTube to more places worldwide (Malaysia and Indonesia are examples of recent localisations), but it takes time,” said the YouTube spokesperson. “The localisation process can be lengthy as we research laws and build relationships with local content creators.  Eventually, we hope to be localised everywhere.”

Google officials visited Pakistan late last month in what appears to be the beginning of the process Pakistan to deepen its relationship with the country, but in the aftermath of the controversy over the video, that process is likely to be affected according to sources familiar with the matter. The government of Pakistan’s attempts to block YouTube have disrupted several other services as well.

“It is not easy to block Google’s services because of the architecture of the websites. So it is not just YouTube that is being affected. There have been intermittent interruptions in Google Maps, Android Play Store, and Google Drive,” said one source.

Many Pakistani users of Android-based phones, which utilise Google’s software and make extensive use of its services, have been badly affected by the blockage, though others report less disruptions.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (44)

  • Asim
    Oct 3, 2012 - 5:17AM

    looks like google is not taking it seriously :).. block all services and promote alternate services by redirecting requests to metacafe , yahoo email , bing etc.

    Recommend

  • Kamran
    Oct 3, 2012 - 10:41AM

    I just recently started using Google Drive service to store and share my very important documents online. Now my documents are stuck in Google Drive and I don’t have a copy of some of the documents that I badly needed in last few days. What options do I have?

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  • Azfar Ayub
    Oct 3, 2012 - 11:59AM

    Google can have censored internet search for China on their request, but cannot block this video ?

    where was “Freedom of speech” then ?Recommend

  • Austin
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:19PM

    I think the Government should also block all google services in Pakistan.

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  • Ahmed
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:20PM

    I hope Pakistan keeps up the pressure on Google. Infact Muslims countries should be spreading an awareness campaign against Google and its products and services because of Google’s Anti-islamic stance. @Kamran, it is possible to use a proxy and retreive those documents.

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  • Pakistani
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:20PM

    Pak govt should have an agreement of sensorship with the google like other countries have….so that the whole site is not blocked and only the required video / part is blocked

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  • AR
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:28PM

    @Kamran, if possible use any remote desktop. I am also doing this on one of my remote desktop in Redmond to access my files.

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  • umar
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:28PM

    I think Google already has this mechanism in place (blocking video according to geographic location), many different up loaders on Youtube block videos to be accessed in specific geographic locations and since we have always been accessing youtube.com instead of the localized version, this explanation does not make sense. And don’t tell me that Google that works in so many countries with so many resources does not know how to identify the country from which a specific service is being accessed.
    Disclaimer: Personally I don’t support this ban, one quick Google search would show millions of websites which are against our Prophet. Point being, whoever wants to watch or read anything of this sort would be able to access it no matter what you do. But Google should come clean and not impose bans in any country or impose a ban wherever the respective government asks it to do so.

    Recommend

  • Talib
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:29PM

    damn It’s a dark knight dialogue, use some originals instead of copying moviesRecommend

  • zardari
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:35PM

    Pakistan should block all google services including google search.

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  • Kaleem
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:41PM

    For all those asking for Google ban, immediately delete your gmail accounts and pledge never to use android OS again.If you cannot do these, please take a second to think if you are having double standards?Recommend

  • Kaleem
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:43PM

    The answer by Youtube spokesperson is technically justified. Its not as simple as PTA representatives are telling us.

    @Asim Metacafe and bing are not being managed by pious. You will soon see blasphemy loaded there. Corporates show what people want to see.

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  • Waqas Butt
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:51PM

    Lets start using Bing.com for your searches. They will respond when there revenue will get a hit.

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  • IceSoul
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:51PM

    I’m surprised to see that the very people who use google day in and day out i.e. the middle and upper class are calling for a complete ban on all google services. Pathetic!

    Recommend

  • Pinky
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:53PM

    some medical students rely heavily on youtube tutorials..especially for spotting..

    is there any way to exonerate medicine related youtube channels from the ban,PTA?

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  • @ Kamran
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:54PM

    @ Kamran & AR,

    download Hot Spot shield software you will start browsing everything on internet that is banned in Pakistan ie Youtube.

    Recommend

  • Munazza sami
    Oct 3, 2012 - 12:57PM

    @Kamran:
    You can download ultra surf through which u can access to those sides as well.even i can access youtube now adays through ultra surf.

    Recommend

  • Hassan
    Oct 3, 2012 - 1:09PM

    Tit for Tat

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  • Mohammad Ali Ilahi
    Oct 3, 2012 - 1:14PM

    Who cares?? Hot Spot Shield for the win… Youtube runs just fine =D

    Recommend

  • Omar
    Oct 3, 2012 - 1:17PM

    Here is an easy solution to unblock youtube, download spotflux software and after you’ll install it just open it and press enable button and you’ll have youtube.Recommend

  • Shazia Manzoor
    Oct 3, 2012 - 1:19PM

    @Asim:

    Why stop here. How about a nuclear strike to wipe out all electronic transmissions. Kill all computers. Rip out the phone lines. We are already blowing up girls schools.

    What a wonderful way to get to stoneage in 30 days

    Recommend

  • Shamy
    Oct 3, 2012 - 1:21PM

    You do realize that blocking YouTube in a tiny country like Pakistan will not even have a marginal effect on their profitability right ? Instead it will harm our ownselves and push us back another 100 years.

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  • Mian Jawad Gilani
    Oct 3, 2012 - 1:23PM

    Is ban on any website or internet not interference with freedom of access to information that is protected in the constitution.

    Is the Government committing treason by abrogating the constitution.

    Recommend

  • Asif-Paki
    Oct 3, 2012 - 1:27PM

    You Tube is required by every one, however, Govt of Pakistan must use all resources to make sure that this video is blocked before opening YouTube.

    Recommend

  • Beckham
    Oct 3, 2012 - 2:01PM

    Instead of demanding a complete blockage of Google services, which I believe is like trying to push yourself back to stone age, Pakistan, if they are so serious about it, should simply make arrangements to get a local YouTube server themselves. Pakistan is a huge population, with many requests going to the YouTube Global server everyday, a local YouTube server for Pakistan would be justified and would be the solution to this problems.

    Recommend

  • True Indian
    Oct 3, 2012 - 2:08PM

    This is good for non-Pakistanis…coz this way we make sure that Pakistan moves 1 step closure to their destruction…The literate elite would understand what I mean to say…

    Recommend

  • Molvi Mujtaba
    Oct 3, 2012 - 2:20PM

    @Omar and others recommending proxy:
    There are whole bunch of tools to bypass PTA but not without some caveats..:
    1. You get a considerably slower performance through tunnels.
    2. There is no easy way out to let your wifi users access that (unless you resort to turning your laptop or desktop to a hotspot – which is not cool)

    Recommend

  • Atif
    Oct 3, 2012 - 2:32PM

    I think Muslim countries or at least Pakistan should go for alternative services( Like face book, you tube,etc) it may be difficult at the start but ultimately will be possible when we take initiative, in this way we would have an alternative & will not blackmail from these band services in the name of freedom of speech, IT expert can have better answer of my question?

    Recommend

  • Nadir
    Oct 3, 2012 - 2:34PM

    Lets burn some public property down!

    Recommend

  • haroon
    Oct 3, 2012 - 2:52PM

    it is good thingRecommend

  • Ostrich Syndrome
    Oct 3, 2012 - 3:08PM

    What I REALLY want to know is what will be achieved even if youtube did block the video in Pakistan? Who in Pakistan is trying to see the video??? What will change if WE can’t see the video and everyone else in the world can??

    This request is absolutely pointless and makes no sense at all.

    Recommend

  • Cautious
    Oct 3, 2012 - 3:15PM

    Nice article — tells you everything you want to know about why Google has made their decision and why they can’t make an exception for Pakistan. Based on the comments it would appear that some didn’t read the article.

    Recommend

  • omair shahid
    Oct 3, 2012 - 3:44PM

    ban youtube untill they remove that video & at least block it in pakistan. this is the only way.Recommend

  • SavePakistan
    Oct 3, 2012 - 3:55PM

    yes my dear fellow Pakistanis, keep blocking these sites, keep blocking yourself from the advancements in science and technology, that is the way to go.
    please stay ignorant, please stay uneducated, please stay in darkness.

    “mankind is indeed in loss”.Recommend

  • peace for all
    Oct 3, 2012 - 4:52PM

    It’s time for replace Google with other service provider in Pakistan as all Muslims world.

    Recommend

  • Salman Shaikh
    Oct 5, 2012 - 11:11AM

    @Kamran:
    Give your ID and PW to someone abroad where google is not banned. ask him to download and upload on Window SkyDrive.

    Recommend

  • host
    Oct 5, 2012 - 12:12PM

    import chinese filter policies and services . solves all governmental and moral problems within a week!

    Recommend

  • muhammad arslan nafees
    Oct 14, 2012 - 5:24AM

    i think youtube is much benificial for us but we can only remove those videos who are unsuitable for humanity if pakistani government have this authority that remove it and on
    /start the youtube its realy batter than blocking of youtube…………think about it

    Recommend

  • Faisal
    Oct 14, 2012 - 9:31AM

    @Kamran:
    it is really important for you to need a backup copy of your uploaded material. i ll be suggest you some tips about it.

    Recommend

  • Oct 15, 2012 - 9:26PM

    youtubeRecommend

  • peels
    Oct 30, 2012 - 11:59AM

    @Munazza sami: very bad

    Recommend

  • 12
    Nov 4, 2012 - 4:51PM

    Google are being racist, I don’t see why they can’t block just those videos from pakistan rather than doing anything else. They obviously want to upset Muslims, that’s why they won’t block it.

    Recommend

  • sufyan aslam
    Nov 28, 2012 - 3:41PM

    @Shazia Manzoor:

    you are right.

    regards.

    Recommend

  • RKR
    Nov 28, 2012 - 7:44PM

    i have read all the comments mentioned above, and decide to say just one sentence, i.e Have we forget the Shamless and bad Islamic Movies which are uploaded by youtube team, if yes, whats the need of comments we are with PTA and paKistan, Lanat ho un per jo Musalmano ka dushman he or Iserial or america ka dost he,

    Recommend

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