Pakistan blocks YouTube

Flush, one presumes, with righteousness at banning Facebook yesterday, Pakistan has now blocked YouTube.

Citing its ‘growing sacrilegious content’, the authorities have ordered ISPs to shut off access completely.

“We have received reports that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has ordered Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Pakistan to block access to YouTube,” a YouTube spokesperson said.

“We are looking into the matter and are working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible.”

Partial bans have also been imposed on Wikipedia and Flickr, according to reports. In total, as many as 450 individual URLs appear to have been blocked.

The Pakistani authorities don’t cite any one particular item as the reason for the ban.

“As far as I’m aware, there is no petition against YouTube and no court order or government instruction, even. I think this is the PTA acting without lawful authority,” Ali Hasan, a Lahore-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, told TechEye.

“It appears they and the government are taking advantage of the court order on Facebook to extend the scope of censorship.”

Hasan said that Wikipedia has been going on- and off-line all day, and suggested that the reason might be confusion on the part of ISPs.

“There are generally very few sites blocked in Pakistan as a matter of routine,” he said. “But there’s been a notice asking people to identify any objectionable sites, and they may have got complaints about material on Wikipedia. Perhaps they’ve gone into reactive mode and are blocking and unblocking sites with abandon.”

The move follows a statement yesterday from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), saying it had taken the decision to block Facebook access because of ‘objectionable material’.

It took exception to a fan page set up by a Facebook user – ‘Draw Mohammed Day’. Many Muslims believe it is sacreligious to depict the Prophet.

The PTA says it is keen to talk to representatives from Facebook and YouTube to resolve the issue.

It’s not the first time Pakistan has banned YouTube over material offensive to Islam – it did the same thing two years ago and again in February.

Indeed, YouTube is getting rather used to being banned. In 2007, Turkey took exception to it over insults to the country’s president, Mustafa Ataturk, and it was shut down in Tahiland in the same year for insults to the king.