Google may localise YouTube for Pakistani users

Published December 11, 2013
Over 2700 URLs on YouTube have so far been blocked, according to the IT minister. — File Photo
Over 2700 URLs on YouTube have so far been blocked, according to the IT minister. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD, Dec 10: A new arrangement with the management of Google/YouTube has brightened the chance of YouTube being unblocked in Pakistan.

If certain conditions of the Google management are met, YouTube will be accessible as YouTube.com.pk, a local search engine.

This was stated by Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunications Anusha Rehman at Senate Standing Committee on Tuesday.

She explained to the committee that the government had succeeded in convincing the Google management about religious sensitivities of Pakistanis.The local search engine will also make it easier to block any blasphemous or objectionable content, she said.

However, the management of Google will do so after the government of Pakistan meets some of its conditions, she maintained.

“Management of Google/YouTube has shown its willingness to localise YouTube in Pakistan provided they will not be held responsible if blasphemous content is placed and uploaded on its website,” the minister said.

“The web service will not be held responsible for blasphemous content uploaded on its sites as that will be a personal action of the individual,” the minister said while quoting the Google management.

“The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is finalising a draft ordinance which will be processed by the ministry for enactment as law,” said the minister.

Breaking the news to members of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications, Anusha Rehman explained that once YouTube was localised, blocking objectionable content would be easier.

“Instead of installing costly filtration mechanisms, Google will easily be able to block blasphemous content on the request of the Pakistan government.

“Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have also reached a similar arrangement with Google,” Anusha Rehman said.

Localising YouTube would also mean that Google would not be violating its own company law of hindering freedom of expression, the state minister explained. This was also a request from the management of Google to the government of Pakistan.

The largest video sharing website was blocked on September 17, 2012 by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC).

The minister said a team was also being tasked in the PTA to monitor obnoxious content including blasphemy on the website.

Responding to a question from the members, the minister said she could not give an exact date for the re-opening of YouTube.

The new Chairman PTA Dr Ismail Shah however said: “It can be unblocked anytime; tomorrow or after weeks.”

According to Anusha Rehman, blocking thousands of links was also not a solution. “It can take Google five seconds to place certain blocked content from one internet protocol (IP) address to a new one,” she said explaining the technicalities.

A sub-committee was formed to investigate and assist the Ministry of Information Technology in speeding up the process to make YouTube accessible to Pakistani users.

Meanwhile, the Standing Committee also took up matters concerning auction of 3G which is likely to take place by first week of March 2014, according to Anusha Rehman.

Five consultants have been short-listed out of the seven international firms to ensure transparency in auction of 3G spectrum, the officials of the ministry informed the meeting.

Taking up other matters on the agenda, the committee expressed its dissatisfaction over poor utilisation of $62 billion lying under the Universal Services Funds (USF).

It also directed the ministry to check grey trafficking, which cost the government roughly $500 million monthly.

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