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Unblocking of YouTube not coming soon


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— File photo
— File photo

ISLAMABAD: It was being speculated that YouTube may be unblocked soon after Eidul Fitr, but it may take a while before internet users in the country will once again be able to access the popular video-sharing website, it has emerged.

The information technology ministry had prepared a proposal in this regard that would be presented to an inter-ministerial committee, Minister of State for IT Anusha Rehman Khan said at a briefing on Thursday.

The committee, which meets when a need arises, has representation from the ministries of interior, information, and religious affairs. Members from the cabinet division, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) are also included in it.

YouTube was blocked in September last year on directives from the committee after controversial film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ went viral on it.

Formed in 2006, the committee has the mandate to define anti-state, blasphemous and pornographic content on internet and issue directives to the PTA to block access to such information.

“The proposal includes both technical and response solutions,” Ms Khan told the briefing.

Under the technical solution, links or uniform resource locations (URLs) to all websites which contain the controversial film are to be blocked.

“Once YouTube is unblocked, users intending to access the controversial film will be denied access because the server will interpret and analyse the request and segregate information accordingly. The play button will either take users to a new page with the message ‘Access Denied’ or give an ‘Error’ message,” the ministry’s IT member, Mohammad Amir Malik, said.

He said that while only 10 per cent of the internet users wanted access to YouTube completely blocked, another 10pc wanted access without any changes and 80pc wanted access but with the objectionable content blocked.

“This is why the video-sharing site must be accessible.” The minister said YouTube was the best source of learning for colleges, universities and companies alike.

The official said the ministry had browsed through 100,000 links and found over 4,000 where the film was loaded. Such sites had been blocked one by one and analysing and blocking each of them had taken roughly five minutes. The job became harder because the words ‘innocence’ or ‘Muslims’ were not objectionable and spread across hundreds of thousands of links.

Ms Khan said the other part of the proposal involved the active role of the PTA to set up a complaint cell for vigilance and monitoring. “The PTA is being asked to establish a call centre, a universal landline and email facility to block links and URLs whenever they receive complaints from users about blasphemous and pornographic content on the internet.

“At the moment there is no such facility where internet users can approach the PTA to register a complaint,” she remarked.

She said that once the inter-ministerial committee was satisfied with the two solutions, it would take a decision to unblock YouTube for users in the country. She said the PTA had reported that the film was spread across eight million URLs and it lacked capacity to block more than 500,000. But actually there were about 4,000 URLs which contained the objectionable material.

Comments (15) Closed Aug 23, 2013 08:45am

please start youtube as soon as possible

Dilawer Aug 23, 2013 09:26am

This is a really bad news for Students in Pakistan. Youtube use has been shifted from entertainment to Educational use. Youtube is a treasure trove of information which could be put to good use. I don't know what the people in-charge are thinking but it is a total loss for Pakistani students.

Shah Aug 23, 2013 09:38am

someone should tell PTA about VPN ... IP Tunnelling ... even china cant block YouTube. Who are they kidding? there is no way you can block anything. there are 1000 ways to dodge a blockade. stop wasting money and time and pay attention to the improvement of network across the country.

Irfan Ullah Khan Aug 23, 2013 09:47am

As an IT industry person, I can tell you with authority that blocking any blasphemous material through URL filtering is absolutely possible technically. The YouTube ban definitely has some political motives behind it.

Muqtadir Aug 23, 2013 10:28am

I am among the first 10%.

Atheist Aug 23, 2013 11:31am

@Irfan Ullah Khan: Really? How do you stop person from doing VPN to another server in another country and accessing internet from there? How about new urls with same contents? You can't block and you should not. Let people judge and decide what they want to see and what they dont. What's right for you is not necessarily right for me and vice versa

Shaki Aug 23, 2013 11:39am

PTA: Block me if you can, I am using Youtube on daily basis. No one can stop Youtube, why PTA can not seem to understand.

Ahmed Khalid Aug 23, 2013 11:42am

I am not sure what we mean by the ban, everyone can access youtube by using freely available proxy softwares which people were unaware of 9 months ago. Here is my take on some possible steps we could take to unblock youtube in Pakistan if we want to.

Pakistani Aug 23, 2013 01:16pm

" wanted access without any changes and 80pc wanted access but with the objectionable content blocked. "

That is the problem. These days every single page on youtube, yahoo, et all indubitably has objectionable material. There is very little of educational value on youtube. Untill we can technologically enable us to filter out the lewd stuff, it is best that it remains blocked. For educational needs, one go to teachers; or two, go to Khan Academy. Nobody learned anything of significance from youtube and plenty of insignificant things.

If it were actually tracked (which Google sure can do), it will no doubt be found that the non-educational uses of youtube far outnumber, by a huge margin, no less, any perceived educational use of the site.

If we want youtube, let us invest in creating our own, so that we can use that as a quick and easy information exchange for our use within the country.

Faried Nawaz Aug 23, 2013 02:26pm

@Irfan Ullah Khan: I'm not sure what sector of the IT industry you work in, but you should know that there's no way to block web content that is accessed over the https protocol. It simply cannot be filtered in a practical sense for an entire nation's internet.

sajjad khan Aug 23, 2013 05:26pm

Whole world is getting educational benefits from YouTube, sitting in far far remote villages, passing exams in international institution but here, Government acting just like Taliban,who are blowing up schools for blocking the majority beneficial youtube. Public think,those who are raping & betraying the nation for last 60 years, really care blasphemy,when its YouTube, Facebook and twitter,which is combining the one world, sharing ideas and bringing revolution in countries,which corrupt status-quo fears the most.

Faisal Qureshi Aug 23, 2013 07:19pm

"He said that while only 10 per cent of the internet users wanted access to YouTube completely blocked, another 10pc wanted access without any changes and 80pc wanted access but with the objectionable content blocked."

I wonder where the eff this survey happened? I have been an internet (and most of the things associated with it) user for 8 years now. how come the related "authorities" failed to include me in this survey? How is it possible that I pay for services with taxes I can't decide what I can or can't see/listen?

Ahh...The greater things we do for the democrazy/religion.

Tabish Aug 24, 2013 02:19am

don't they know we are already using VPN'S to access YouTube no body cares about it being unblocked

Naseem Altaf Aug 26, 2013 01:52am

1.). We are aware that many books, journals, pamphlets are published( on paper )which have contents, immoral,degenerate, insulting ,or blasphemous ,as viewed by many. I propose and demand that paper and printing process should be banned from Pakistan ,till we find a way to find a solution to it .

OR,alternately,let us ,each one of us decide that we shall not get or procure , or obtain any such repugnant printed material book/journal/ pamphlet etc and shall not read it. We will have not anything to do with it ; And shall buy or access only the good books etc.

Make your decision and boycott the bad materials.

2.) Similarly , if you do decide not to Click and inot to invite any particular (undesirable / bad / insulting/ blasphemous) material from the Internet /YouTube ,on your laptop or your computer, it will never be visible to you. Let us all Internet users decide to never invite(Click ) it on our devices.

And we shall Click/invite only the good materials ,the educational materials,information ,technical, general instructive materials of value in everyday life ,and particularly the QURAN,Hadith ,Tafassir. , and all the religious Islamic books,and quality literature of all varieties available to the Internet/YouTube users across the world (except Pakistan ,as long as the PTA keeps its ban ON ) ; we shall ourselves boycott all the dirty and blasphemous material as our personal decision and shall InshaAllah be rewarded for it.

Some of you may belong to the group who should ban the paper and printing press because of some bad material on paper ; similarly ban all the Internet/ You Tube material irrespective of it being good material or bad one.

OR You may believe that we shall make our own definite decision NOT to get or buy or borrow ever ever any book ,journal, or pamphlet that has any

Naseem Altaf Aug 26, 2013 01:59am

@Faried Nawaz: You can make your decision not to invite any undesirable material on your computer ; and Do Not Click on any bad material .why not choose only the good valuable material, ; Will you BAN paper whole sale because there are some BAD books written on it ? You simply make a choice of what you CLICK/ invite on your computer and what books you buy. Isn't it ( Or as the Taliban say,Ban all the Girls Schools as "in some of them ,a girl may pick up bad things")? O