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Missing in action

January 01, 2013

AROUND three months after YouTube was officially blocked from Pakistani computer screens, it appears that the authorities are in no mood to restore access to the popular video-sharing website anytime soon.

The site made news in 2012 for all the wrong reasons: it was the launching pad for an idiotic mishmash of sound and images mistakenly referred to as a film, which set the Muslim world afire due to its offensive content.

Whatever the knights of free expression say, there is really no way to justify the hateful content of that trash. It has no artistic or cultural value and was designed to rankle Muslim sentiments around the world, which it deviously did. However, in response to carrying the ‘film’, the Pakistani government banned YouTube in September and while there have been numerous reports that the ban will be lifted ‘soon’, that does not look like a possibility at this time.

Blocking access to the offensive stuff is understandable. However, continuously blocking YouTube is not. Yes, there is a lot of nasty, hateful content on the website, but there are ways to filter out any content that not only breaks national laws but is likely to inflame public sentiment. Why block the whole darned site? For example, tech geeks say it is easy to block the offensive and leave the rest of the site accessible. Yet the powers that be don’t seem to agree with this approach.

Instead, they have adopted a uniquely Pakistani way to deal with hairy situations: if there’s a threat, shut everything down. The past year was a perfect example of this — cellular networks, motorbikes et al. It is a crude method of managing crises, but it works. So feel the Pakistani authorities.

So, yes, the offensive film is not accessible on YouTube. But then neither are nursery rhymes for your kids, lectures for students, religious sermons or perfectly kosher entertainment. That’s a bit of a problem. In the new year, many Pakistanis will hope that the authorities figure out a way of filtering out the nastiness and restoring access to YouTube.