Firewalled: After three-hour relief, YouTube blocked again

Published: December 30, 2012

Rehman Malik tweeted on Friday that YouTube would be un-blocked in the following 24 hours. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

YouTube users across the country experienced short-lived relief on Saturday when the site was unblocked for three hours — only to be blocked again.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), upon receiving verbal orders from the interior ministry on Saturday, directed internet service providers (ISP) to unblock the world’s largest video-sharing web portal.

The move had been widely anticipated among Pakistan’s online community after Interior Minister Rehman Malik tweeted on Friday that YouTube would be un-blocked in the following 24 hours.

Mere three hours later, however, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ordered the authority to re-block YouTube after being notified that it was up and running.

“The Prime minister expressed displeasure over PTA’s act of restoring YouTube without his written orders and has directed them to block it again,” an official in the PTA told The Express Tribune.

A summary recommending the restoration of YouTube had been sent to the prime minister by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) earlier. However, the premier had yet to issue written orders when PTA restored the site.

According to the PTA official, however, the authority’s failure to block the controversial anti-Islam film that led to the YouTube ban in the first place was the actual reason behind the prime minister’s orders to re-block the site.

“It was brought to the prime minister’s notice that YouTube was running with the controversial material after being unblocked on Saturday,” he added.

“YouTube would have been unblocked long ago if PTA had acquired a software to filter or block any objectionable material on the internet,” an official in the ministry of information technology told The Express Tribune.

“The ministry had asked PTA to acquire this software in May this year and establish a central state-of-the-art call centre, but they never bothered,” the official continued. The call centre would have allowed the authority central control over ISPs across the country. According to the official, during a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee last week, security agencies strongly opposed the restoration of YouTube unless the controversial film was removed. Agencies feared any such move would trigger a violent public reaction, like the one in September this year which led to the YouTube ban.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2012.

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