We have now completed a full year with the YouTube ban in place, forcing some to do without one of the most popular internet sites in the world, many others to resort to proxies of various kinds, putting up with the nuisances these ‘by-pass’ mechanisms cause. So, what has the ban, slapped on after an offensive film was loaded on the site, actually achieved? It has simply denied people of a right to information, protected under the law, and also held back students, teachers and others accessing the vast amount of educational material available on YouTube. The channel is, of course, used by leading educational sites, such as the award-winning Khan Academy, to host their material. And it has also prevented families and friends from sharing segments of their lives and staying attached across oceans and continents as many try and do.
Technology had, of course, made these tasks simpler. Through its action to block it, the government has denied its people of all this. We can only wonder what logic guides them in continuing with the ban. The matter has been taken before the court but progress in restoring the site remains painfully slow. Even now there is no indication the familiar message from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority telling us the site is not available will be vanishing any time soon. Tens of thousands of irritated internet users have lashed out against the government each time that message flashes up on screens.
A year after YouTube vanished, there is still no indication of when it may make a comeback. There is no concrete news on this, a ludicrous ban enters its second year and it seems our leaders are bent on driving the country further into darkness by snatching away tools that can help progress and expand knowledge. Surely someone, somewhere in authority, must realise how foolish this is and how much harm it is inflicting on people everywhere for no sensible reason at all.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2013.
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