YouTube Censorship: Pakistan remove three-year ban after YouTube launched a localized version for the country

By Staff Writer

Jan 21, 2016 05:44 AM EST

After a three-year-long ban on YouTube, Pakistan finally removed the block. Pakistani authorities agreed to allow the Google-owned site to broadcast in their country after the website launched a customized local version that gives partial control for the government to control the data being shared.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced on Monday when they removed the ban that Google has provided an online web process where PTA can request some offensive materials to be blocked by Google or Youtube directly. 

Even so, CNN reported that YouTube officially stated that it doesn't always mean all government requests to block materials will automatically be met by their management. "We have clear community guidelines, and when videos violate those rules, we remove them. Where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we may restrict access to it after a thorough review," YouTube's spokeswoman said.

In that statement, YouTube referred to two other countries where they already launched a local version. Besides Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka also have their own localized version of YouTube. Furthermore, YouTube stated that the government's requests to remove content will be tracked and included in Transparency Report.

Pakistan banned all access to YouTube in September 2012 after the video-sharing website hosted an anti-Islam film hosted by a third-party entity. The film, titled "Innocence of Muslims", triggered violent demonstrations across the Muslim-majority country. During that incident, more than a dozen people died in protests.

In Pakistan, it was not uncommon that mobs killed people accused of insulting Islam. Profanity against the religion is also considered a crime and could carry the death penalty. Although, so far a death sentence has never been carried out.

Tech Crunch reported that YouTube is not the only tech company to experience censorship demands by the authorities in Pakistan. Last year, BlackBerry was ready to leave the country after the authorities demanded to monitor its data, but the demands were dropped so the company stays in the country.

Previously, the YouTube ban by the government raised protests by Pakistani activists group that called the act as a restriction of freedom of speech. Even now when the ban is already removed, Wall Street Journal reported that a nonprofit organization named Bolo Bhi have demanded transparency by the government to reveal the terms under which YouTube has been unblocked.

Both YouTube and the Pakistani government have not elaborated on the exact terms they have agreed on. But both parties seemed to believe that they have reached the best possible solution. YouTube spokesperson also said they are glad that Pakistani can now re-join the online video community.

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