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YouTube returns to Pakistan

Published Jan 19, 2016 06:23am


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ISLAMABAD: After over three years of being told to ‘Surf Safely’, Internet users in the country were able to access the popular video-sharing website, YouTube, following orders from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) that the website be unblocked.

However, digital rights groups and other stakeholders, who had originally opposed the blocking of the website, still have concerns over the deal – struck between the government and Google – which may empower the former to censor content on the website.

YouTube was blocked in September 2012, after a blasphemous film, ‘Innocence of Muslims’, triggered global protests. The government of Pakistan initially tried to restrict access to the clip inside Pakistan, but ended up having to block the entire website because Google refused to restrict access to the video on the website itself.

“We have directed all ISPs to unblock the website as Google informed us on January 12 that a country version of YouTube has been launched for Pakistan. Google has been using country versions for different countries such as Saudi Arabia,” a PTA official, who was not authorised to speak on the record, told Dawn.

Google’s accession to govt demands worries digital rights activists

“Google has also informed us that objectionable content will be restricted in Pakistan. It has assured that, in the future, content can be restricted at the request of the government of Pakistan,” he said.

A spokesperson for Google told Dawn via email, “We are glad that YouTube is now accessible in Pakistan so viewers can watch and share videos, as well as take advantage of the vibrant and growing global online video community.”

Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) Convener Wahajus Siraj told Dawn that he had checked to see if the objectionable video could still be accessed on YouTube.

“The film is no longer available on the website. There are certain purported links, but when I tried to open them, it told me the content could not be viewed in Pakistan. This shows that the government’s demands have been met,” he said.

“It doesn’t make a difference whether one types in or simply It seems that the website is filtering IP addresses and it gives Internet users in Pakistan the ‘PK’ version irrespective. This is a positive development,” he said.

Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) Chairman Syed Ahmad told Dawn that restoring access to the website was a good step because YouTube was a major source of educational material and several users depended on it for updates on new technology.

“We were concerned that not opening the website would hurt Pakistanis far more than it would hurt Google,” he said.

“Now, however, thanks to the localisation, the website won’t be blocked because of political issues. But there are still concerns that the government will be able to get content restricted,” he said.

“Although control lies with the management of YouTube, but if someone uploads a video critiquing government corruption, the Pakistani government can ask for the video to be restricted. In addition, the management of YouTube will have to pay more attention to the government’s demands making it easier for the government to censor content,” he said.

Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director Nighat Dad said that there was no transparency in the agreement between the government and Google.

“Earlier, the government used to say that the issue was pending before the Supreme Court and the court would decide. However, a few days ago, restrictions on YouTube were relaxed and then, suddenly. we came to know that Google representatives were in Pakistan and it was announced that the website had been localised,” she said.

“The agreement should be made public because that is how we can know what kind of material has been restricted and what kind of content will be restricted in the future,” she said.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2016

Comments (36) Closed

Santosh Menon Jan 19, 2016 08:01am

Yes "Under the eyes & ears" of the Govt!!. Good luck

Abdul Ghaffar Jan 19, 2016 08:59am

It's really wonderful so see youtube here in Pakistan. It will help learners to learn at a greater speed and will eventually able to compete with the rest of world. Well done PTA & Google ...

Nomi Jan 19, 2016 09:17am

Finally.... in fact you tube has always been used in proxies. However its a good decision taken. Later then never...

KaKa Jan 19, 2016 09:22am

Mabrook....Custom google is also a good option Good work google

Akil Akhtar Jan 19, 2016 09:39am

back to wasting hours.....

Ahmar Qureshi Jan 19, 2016 09:48am

Welcome Back You Tube but Daily Motion & has earned its fans! Market it saturated! But Welcome Back! - Again! :-)

Adnan Aziz Jan 19, 2016 09:50am

Congratulations, my fellow countrymen.

Have nice times. I do not know, however, when Utube will be blocked again. Till then, enjoy yourself.

Abdullah Jan 19, 2016 09:50am

@Akil Akhtar .Only if you are doing something productive you are living life or else anyhow you wasting it.So from now onwards you can do it on youtbe.

abdul rehman Jan 19, 2016 09:54am

i am very happy for open you tube because it is my favorite social channel.

JAAN Jan 19, 2016 10:04am

Although there is & daily motion good sites for any clip, but you tube is a vast and full of varieties of all videos. Its depend upon our need whether we get some knowledge or time waste.

niju Jan 19, 2016 10:06am

congratulations to all my Pakistani friends... welcome back to YouTube and share the videos of your beautiful country......

xmaestro Jan 19, 2016 10:07am

Oh what a treat! Thank you GOP for catering to the needs of the masses. This will really help kids who die in Thar!

Zidane Jan 19, 2016 10:17am

it was a right step to restrict you tube. It hurts billions of Muslim in the world. at that time you tube authorities hadn't comes on the dialogue table. If you tube accept these restriction at that time, they didn't face such of restrictions over now.

SMalik Jan 19, 2016 10:51am

Educated Pakistanis should direct students to Khan Academy to learn. A very good learning resource if they can access ?

Multinational Bhabi Jan 19, 2016 10:52am

So, YouTube. We are legally hitched again! Welcome back to my life!

Faisal Jan 19, 2016 10:57am

PMLN is the best in the history.

Philosopher (from Japan) Jan 19, 2016 11:33am

I m thankful to pm NS cm SS and FM ishaq dar whose continuous efforts made it possible to 'unblock' YouTube (incumbent IT minister at YouTube inaugural ceremony).

Charl Jan 19, 2016 11:38am

Seems like these 'rights' fellows (human rights, digital rights) are always able to smell something fishy. Probably, that's what their job is.

Cyrus Jan 19, 2016 11:46am

The world moves on regardless of protesters and advocates. Don't get ground up in the wheels of progress is my motto.

Cyrus Jan 19, 2016 11:47am

@Akil Akhtar .... The middle class has hours to waste.

Cyrus Jan 19, 2016 11:49am

@JAAN .... Good music is very accessible on YouTube.

jamshed Jan 19, 2016 11:50am

@Philosopher (from Japan) Are these people you mentioned are the one who lifted the ban ? I am not sure but if they are then why they took such a along time ? It should not have been like getting a telephone connection in the eighties? But one thing is sure people at the helms are pretty dumb. Youtube is a great educational tool for all ages and professions if there is desire other than kinky stuff our people watch. All over the world governments are losing their control fast and that is good news. Information flow across borders is making people independent of government" thought control".

Cyrus Jan 19, 2016 11:57am

Watch "Irish Bank Robbers". A hilarious short clip from British TV.

ANWAR Jan 19, 2016 12:17pm

A corrupt government restricting youtube? Fox guarding the hen house....

ahmad Jan 19, 2016 02:24pm

Good. Now I can watch Bollywood masala news, thank PML-N

ahmad Jan 19, 2016 02:24pm

@abdul rehman CHANNEL?

Philosopher (from Japan) Jan 19, 2016 02:24pm

@jamshed dear to understand my comment you need to visit Anushe Rehman's interview while getting UN Award for IT expansion in Pakistan.

Jawad Pakistani Jan 19, 2016 03:28pm

Finally youtube is back. It was back in Afghanistan three years ago but not in Pakistan

RotterDamned Jan 19, 2016 03:35pm

Great! so ppl will now see the news the govt wants them to see! How is that better?

KAMIL GANI Jan 19, 2016 03:35pm

porn should be blocked in Pakistan

ahmad Jan 19, 2016 04:38pm

@KAMIL GANI Its already blocked but proxies are available. easy access

jkhkhg Jan 19, 2016 04:55pm

good luck all

Tamilselvan Jan 19, 2016 06:32pm

You tube back in Pakistan and let's for how long before the government pulls the plug on it

sheikh amjad hussain Jan 19, 2016 06:54pm

due to its misuse more are the drawbacks and disadvantages, and not the tendency towards the constructive use, we could not attain the benefits. If we pay positive attention, can compete the developed nations.

the tendency

sameen bawla Jan 19, 2016 08:26pm

Corporations are not bigger than a country. You have to follow rules. Tolerance and sensitivities are different in different parts of the world.

Ash20 Jan 19, 2016 11:55pm

Congrats Pakistanis, now you can watch videos as whole world do. Hope govt. do not ban it again.