Ban on YouTube

Published: April 5, 2013
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The ban has now been in place for so long that it is likely most people have even forgotten why YouTube was originally blocked.

The ban has now been in place for so long that it is likely most people have even forgotten why YouTube was originally blocked.

Thus far in its short term, the caretaker government has been content to stay relatively low-key, and even though a peaceful transfer of power to the next democratically-elected government is the main goal of the caretaker set-up, there is another area where it can stamp its mark. The ban on YouTube now stands at 200 days and counting. There have been previous false alarms where we believed the video-sharing website would be unblocked only for a figure in authority to squelch the idea at the last moment. The ban has now been in place for so long that it is likely most people have even forgotten why YouTube was originally blocked.

The effect of the YouTube ban on Pakistan’s cultural history will be stark and severe. By virtue of its immense popularity, YouTube has a virtual monopoly on video-clip sharing. This is where people go to upload choice snippets from the day’s talk shows, historical footage of immense value, educational material such as tutorials, music and other cultural artefacts. We have shut ourselves off from this conversation. YouTube is a curate’s egg of videos on every subject imaginable. Certainly, the very fact of its openness means that people will be able to upload videos that many will find offensive. The solution to this is not to block the entire website but to trust that users are mature enough to self-police. Another option is to work with YouTube and block access to certain material within the region only. YouTube has become the world’s digital library and just as we wouldn’t ban all brick and mortar libraries just because one person has written an offensive book, we shouldn’t be shutting off access to YouTube either.

There are plenty of things on the internet that people may not approve of and yet, banning the internet would be catastrophic. The same applies on a smaller scale to YouTube. This is why it would not run afoul of the caretaker government’s remit if it simply lifted the ban. We have unnecessarily been without YouTube for far too long and should not have to wait for another 200 days.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • gp65
    Apr 5, 2013 - 10:43PM

    “Another option is to work with YouTube and block access to certain material within the region only”.

    Those countries which had a domestic version of you tube e.g Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil asked for the specific video to be removed from their domestic version and youtube honoured that request. Pakistan does not have a domestic version of youtube, so it would have to be removed from the worldwide version of youtube which is hosted in US, which youtube has flatly refused to since the video is not against the US laws. Even a youtube ban has not changed google’s mind, so i is unclear what the editorial proposes should now be done.

    “Thus far in its short term, the caretaker government has been content to stay relatively low-key, and even though a peaceful transfer of power to the next democratically-elected government is the main goal of the caretaker set-up, there is another area where it can stamp its mark. The ban on YouTube now stands at 200 days and counting.”

    If the caretaker government does things through backdoor which an elected government is afraid to do because it is afraid of public backlash, then it would have greatly exceeded its mandate.

    Of course I personally believe that the youtube ban did not make sense from day 1. But the opinion of an Indian like me should not drive Pakistan’s policy. It should be driven by what the Pakistani people want. It looks like the people want youtube ban and blasphemy laws. If major political parties and media houses think these things (youtube ban, blasphemy law in current form) are harmful to the country then, they need to educate the people and get the mandate. Going behind people’s back is not the solution.

    “We have shut ourselves off from this conversation.”

    Not at all. Pretty much most of Pakistan’s talk shows are being uploaded on a daily basis on youtube. You maynot be able to access it within Pakistan but they are accessible in US.

    “There have been previous false alarms where we believed the video-sharing website would be unblocked only for a figure in authority to squelch the idea at the last moment.”

    Did you mean false dawn? False alarm does not make sense in the context of the rest of editorial.

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  • Apr 6, 2013 - 12:24AM

    Sadly Pakistan will ban the internet if it could simply appeasing the maulanas matters more than education or development of the nation or its people

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  • Mj
    Apr 6, 2013 - 12:48AM

    Millions of students and those interested in learning have to suffer due to over-sensitivity and self-righteousness of a few people.

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  • gp65
    Apr 6, 2013 - 6:31AM

    @Mj: Wrong argument. When a governor can be killed due o blasphemy, when a school can be burned down due o blasphemy, when 150 houses can be burned down due to perceived blasphemy then denial of youtube due to actual blasphemy seems very reasonable to me.

    Justifying unblocking youtube giving examples of students using it is unlikely to work because everyone knows youtube is primarily an entertainment forum. The reason if was blocked has not gone away. You have to challenge the reason i.e. freedom of speech is important. Even if what the other person says offends you and you consider it blasphemy, you do not have the right to harm them. Unless this idea is addressed , talking about students using youtube for learning will never provide the rationale to challenge the other side who use blasphemy as a veto to silence all difference of opinions.

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  • Feroz
    Apr 6, 2013 - 10:21AM

    Propaganda machines in ideological States always suffer from the fear that citizens will be exposed to the Truth and see the World as it really is. Youtube is merely the starting point in this battle by Religious warriors. Slowly and steadily as the militants or their proxies seize Power, the bans will keep expanding —– Facebook and others watch out !

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  • Apr 6, 2013 - 12:05PM

    @Mj:

    Dude, come on.. Millions of students will suffer? That too by banning YouTube?

    Haven’t you heard of something called Googling? Is Google banned?

    Or, have you heard of ITunes University? It streams lectures from top universities, free of cost, if you are that interested in watching “educational videos”!

    Me thinks, this education reason is the reason you are hiding behind to get YouTube unbanned. The real reason is pure entertainment. Why not come out and say it?

    YouTube is fun, just admit it.. Stop hiding behind lousy reasons like “Millions of students and those interested in learning have to suffer..”

    I think you are doing that because you don’t want to admit that YouTube has blasphemous material and refused to remove it. Isn’t it?

    Be honest..

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  • Apr 6, 2013 - 12:44PM

    What MJ said.

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  • Areebah Shahid
    Apr 6, 2013 - 4:06PM

    Please, someone, bring youtube back :(

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  • ahmad
    Apr 6, 2013 - 10:22PM

    @mj comman man you realy think that ban on youtube realy matter for student
    every student with a little knowledge of internet can easily acess youtube from anywhere in pakistan

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  • polpot
    Apr 6, 2013 - 11:53PM

    Curate’s egg: I must confess I had to look it up
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curate's_egg

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  • Kevin Garnett
    Apr 7, 2013 - 8:23AM

    I think that PTA should simply restrict access to the video itself by blocking the various webpages (URLs) that link to it. If the government wants to take it a step further, they can block the URL for the “search results” page to the video. The existence/creation of this video was a non-issue that the Maulvi’s of this country used to maintain their power and control over their (largely) uneducated followers. I don’t think any of them even watched the video when it came out and are probably don’t even use youtube. If youtube came back today I doubt they would care at this point (especially if the video URLs were blocked).

    Frankly though, your article has some misinformation about the blocking of the video in Saudi Arabia. In typical online editorial fashion, you’ve said little of substance. There is a (very strict and efficient) government body in Saudi Arabia that ensures that any websites containing even mildly sexual, pornographic or religiously offensive material are blocked. In fact, it impossible to even access a blocked site through a proxy server. Similarly, the body has ensured that the URLs for the infamous video (and many others) are inaccessible in Saudi. The PTA could learn something from the Saudis instead of blocking youtube entirely!

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  • M Saleh
    Apr 11, 2013 - 12:29AM

    As far as the ban itself goes, I find it extremely difficult to believe that it has anything whatsoever to do with blasphemy. At best, it was the perfect excuse for our corrupt leaders and their minions to utilize this video to place this unwanted ban. I know that this is officially the reason the Government has given us, but how credible is this claim in reality? If you conduct a quick search on google, right now, on ‘iinocence of a Muslim’ (the name of the blasphemous video, and using the minus (-) key with youtube, (-youtube) you’ll come up with all the other websites that are showing this video, which are not banned in Pakistan.

    So, why has Pakistan really placed this ban if not for this blasphemous video?

    I would say that 90% of the people in Pakistan have mobile phones, and many of the so called leaders in our country had been caught red-handed, unaware of the event being recorded stooped down to either, immoral, criminal or anti social acts, which were later posted onto youtube, bringing them much deserved shame.

    It’s never been about protecting the honor of the most honorable entity that has ever lived on this earth (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam), but the ban’s real purpose is to stop the exposure of our dishonest, corrupt and criminal leaders who are in-charge of our affairs.

    So, for as long as they can keep up this farce, they shall…

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  • Aamir
    Apr 11, 2013 - 12:42PM

    its my appeal to govt of pakistan to unban youtube

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  • Salman Zaheer
    Apr 27, 2013 - 7:58AM

    What I don’t understand is that why on earth do we take measures which are so ridiculous, in the name of religion, when our virtue itself is at question? I was always against the ban on YouTube. What kind of an action is that? If, for example, you buy juice from a very popular cafe and one of the customers there says something blasphemous, would you stop going to that cafe? Would you forcefully close that cafe just because of that customer who acted on his own? People of Pakistan should be sensible enough not to go to that video link (given the fact that it’s still there). People still use YouTube through proxy anyway, I believe that whatever point anyone tried making by banning YouTube has surely done more than enough in these 200+ days and it is now time to get it back up.

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  • May 7, 2013 - 1:26PM

    Not eveyrthing on youtube is bad , we can personally not watch the bad stuff on youtube. Anyways , if you wish to use youtube, i am using an awesome website which would seamlessly let you watch the youtube videos without the ads.

    the website is : http://bypass.germanystudy.net/

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  • Jun 2, 2013 - 10:06AM

    You Tube should be opened in Pakistan as soon as possible, many student are feeling difficulties about their educational activities.
    its our humble request to New Prime Minister of Pakistan , Mian Muhammad Nawaz Shareef to order to unblock You Tube in Pakistan.

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