No way to block internet content, NA told

Published March 25, 2014
— File photo
— File photo

ISLAMABAD: The government has admitted that there is no technical way to block all objectionable content on the internet.

In a written reply to a lawmaker’s query, the National Assembly was informed on Monday that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had carried out a search for objectionable material on the internet and blocked 31,819 such websites. But, the authority said, it was impossible to filter out all sites offering offensive material.

Begum Tahira Bukhari of the PML-N had submitted the query, seeking an answer from the PTA if any proposal was being considered to unblock YouTube. The video sharing website was banned in September 2012.

The minister in charge of the cabinet division recalled that after the blasphemous movie “Innocence of Muslims” was uploaded in September 2012, the then government had to block the site because Google, the owner of YouTube, refused to remove the film.

In background interviews, PTA officials said the authority had repeatedly told the government that technically it was not possible to block offensive movies even if multi-million dollar filters were used.

A PTA official recalled how the PPP government in December 2012 restored YouTube after taking precautionary measures but had to block it again within 24 hours because of media reports about the presence of the film on the website.

The best possible solution which other Muslim countries had put in place was an automatic warning which informed a viewer trying to watch such material about the nature of the content, he said. Pakistan has also placed the warning on the internet.

“Although the PTA has banned YouTube, computer users can access it through unsecured sites,” he admitted.

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