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Pakistan Lifts YouTube Ban

by AFP
Banaras Khan—AFP

File Photo. Banaras Khan—AFP

Access to video-sharing site restored three years after if was banned following launch of localized version.

Islamabad on Monday lifted a years-long ban on video-sharing site YouTube after Google launched a country-specific version ensuring the filtering of content deemed blasphemous.

The Supreme Court in 2012 had ordered a ban on the site after the Innocence of Muslims film was uploaded. The American-made film triggered protests across the Muslim world, including in Pakistan, where more than 20 people died in demonstrations.

But last week Google said it had launched a localized version of the site in Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, meaning Pakistani authorities can now ask Google to remove content deemed objectionable.

On Monday authorities said the ban had been lifted. “Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Monday directed the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to unblock YouTube with immediate effect,” said a senior government official. “The ban has been lifted after Google launched a country-specific version in which it would be possible to block blasphemous and offensive content,” the official said.

Wahajus Siraj, chief executive officer of Internet service provider Nayatel Private Limited, confirmed receiving the instruction. He added that he had checked and did not find blasphemous content on the website, saying that some videos came up with a notification that they had been blocked.

Google has said that it would review requests before taking videos down.

Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, the country’s largest telecom provider, also announced the move on its Facebook page with a “Welcome Back YouTube” post.

Islamabad had been in intermittent talks with Google for several years over the issue. Internet users in Pakistan, meanwhile, simply circumvented the ban using proxy servers and Virtual Private Networks.

In 2010 Pakistan shut down Facebook for nearly two weeks over its hosting of allegedly blasphemous pages. It continues to restrict thousands of online links.

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