The blockade of the popular video-sharing website, YouTube, which was shut down on September 17 to prevent access to the blasphemous video, has now entered its third week. Given the violence seen in the country over the derogatory video, the government’s orders, imposed through the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), are not impossible to understand. But with PTA officials quoted as saying that the ban could last indefinitely, the situation perhaps, needs to be reviewed. Beyond providing entertainment, YouTube is also widely used for educational and communication purposes. The lack of access to it affects many, with the clumsy ‘wall’ put up by the PTA also disrupting Android mobile phone services run by Google.
Despite talks held between Google and the government, the former has reportedly declined to block the offending video in Pakistan, since there is no agreement that could facilitate such an action. The video has been removed from public viewing domains in a host of other countries, including Egypt, India, Libya, Malaysia and Indonesia, with whom Google has agreements. Countries where major Google operation centres are based have also been granted a blockade when requested. Despite the absence of the required agreement with Google, its tough line with Pakistan still seems harsh given the obviously objectionable content of the video. Both sides have locked horns and a deadlock persists.
While the PTA has said it will not lift the ban till the video is removed from the website, a solution needs to be worked out. Right now, discs loaded with software to run proxy servers are selling like the proverbial hotcakes across cities. Others have, of course, downloaded and initiated their own programmes such as proxies and so on. The PTA, then, needs to consider what good is being achieved through the ban and reach a decision keeping this in view, while working out an arrangement for a deal with Google to prevent the repetition of a similar sequence of events at any time in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2012.