While the furore surrounding an anti-Islam amateur film, “Innocence of Muslims”, persisted on Monday, the movie’s trailer continued to mushroom on the internet – pushing the government of Pakistan to take a sweeping step to block a popular video-sharing website, YouTube, in its entirety across the country.
In addition, Interior Minister Rehman Malik weighed in with another threat to Google Inc, the company that owns YouTube: remove the anti-Islam material, or visas of Google officials would be cancelled. He also said he will approach Interpol for the arrest of those involved in the film.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf issued directives to the information technology ministry to immediately block YouTube across Pakistan.
The directives come as the website has been unable to stop the film from continuously being reposted on the site through different accounts and links. Nevertheless, Premier Ashraf said sacrilegious material would not be tolerated and YouTube would remain suspended till it removed all links to the film.
YouTube is the main, but by no means the only, website that can host the video on the Internet.
Following Premier Ashraf’s directives, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) spokesperson Malahat Rabi confirmed that YouTube was blocked with immediate effect. Rabi confirmed that the site would be banned until it removed all links to the controversial film.
Earlier, the interior, religious, and information technology ministries had recommended a complete ban on YouTube in the country. The ministries also recommended that the summary by an inter-ministerial committee on the matter should be forwarded to the prime minister.
Earlier on Monday, the Supreme Court had directed the PTA to block 934 links to the movie on YouTube and the Internet. It also ordered the PTA to prevent similar material from being displayed on such websites in the future.
“By Monday evening, 934 links to the film have been blocked on YouTube and the Internet by the PTA, out of which over 650 uniform resource locators (URLs) have been banned on YouTube. However, the surge in uploading the film is massive, causing unrest in the country,” said a PTA official statement. The authority also said almost 100 new links of the film were proliferated on YouTube every day.
Akram Sheikh and Taufiq Asif, legal attorneys for Jamaat-e-Islami, had filed an application in the apex court to draw its attention towards the blasphemous content of the controversial film. They said the links to the film, which had hurt the feelings of Muslims in the country and around the world, was still available on YouTube.
Following the arguments put forth, the court directed the PTA to take down all sacrilegious material that disrespected Islam or Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in any way and directed the PTA to submit a report on its progress.
Google snubs White House
Google Inc rejected a request by the White House on Friday to reconsider its decision to keep online a controversial YouTube movie clip that has ignited anti-American protests in the Middle East.
The Internet company said it was censoring the video in India and Indonesia after blocking it on Wednesday in Egypt and Libya, where US embassies have been stormed by protestors. On Tuesday, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in a fiery siege on the embassy in Benghazi.
Google said it was further restricting the clip to comply with local law rather than as a response to political pressure.
“We’ve restricted access to it 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,” the company said. “This approach is entirely consistent with principles we first laid out in 2007.”
White House officials had asked Google earlier on Friday to reconsider whether the video had violated YouTube’s terms of service.
Google initially said on Wednesday that the video was within its guidelines.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM REUTERS)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2012.