ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman will convene a meeting of the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) after Eidul Fitr to review the ban on video sharing website YouTube in Pakistan.
According to the IT ministry spokesman, the IMC for Web Evaluation will present its web evaluation on the YouTube ban and furnish its recommendations to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to make a final decision on whether or not to lift restrictions on the service.
In his press statement, the spokesman said since the upload of the blasphemous film “Innocence of Muslims” on YouTube in September 2012, the government took stringent measures to demand its removal and limit its access on the Internet in Pakistan. The controversial film stirred violent protests and public outcry in Pakistan and the Arab world.
The IMC for Web Evaluation, constituted by the then prime minister in 2006, has the mandate to evaluate and restrict offensive online content in the country. The committee, headed by secretary IT, has representation from different government ministries, entities and agencies. The IMC last September evaluated the circumstances and concluded that Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) should block YouTube and Facebook in Pakistan on 17 September, 2012 till further orders.
Accordingly, the IT ministry ordered PTA to block the services. A policy directive was also issued by the ministry to PTA to deploy a state of the art technical solution to proactively and independently block blasphemous and pornographic websites.
So far, PTA has unable to implement the policy directive. The authority falls under the ambit of the Cabinet Division and is not under the administrative control of the IT ministry.
The ministry also took matters up with the management of YouTube and Facebook for blocking the blasphemous content. In response, Facebook restricted the access and upload of the video.
However, Google Inc., the owner of YouTube, did not remove the content, stating that YouTube complies with international laws of principles subject to the laws of the United States that do not comply with Pakistan-specific content removal request.
The ministry spokesman said after the new government was sworn in the issue was taken up and the minister of state for IT invited all relevant stakeholders to find a solution.
He said research was in progress to determine the factual YouTube links which contain the film, and development was underway for blocking mechanisms for URLs and links on both the Http and secure Http protocols to ensure the restraint of controversial content.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2013.
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