YouTube has been banned in Pakistan since September 2012, but that could change soon as the nation’s Senate Standing Committee for Information Technology urged legislators to get that ban lifted. Officials with the IT Ministry told the committee that the ban on YouTube can only be lifted by a ruling from the apex court, reports Dawn.
Earlier this year, Pakistani officials were looking for ways to unblock YouTube while also filtering out content that’s blasphemous to Muslims.
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Law needed to lift YouTube ban
Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the ban on YouTube, and the committee agreed that they needed to issue legislation to end it. However, officials with the IT Ministry also informed the committee that they couldn’t block what is seen as blasphemous content in Pakistan from the website. They said the only way such content could be blocked in Pakistan without blocking all of YouTube is for parent company Google to create a local version of it specifically for Pakistan.
Pakistani officials blocked YouTube in 2012 because of the controversial Innocence of Muslims movie, which caused protests all over the world. At the time, the Supreme Court ruled to block all of YouTube until they could figure out how to block offensive content. The IT Ministry said they were in negotiations with Google to create a Pakistan version of the website which does not include such content.
How soon might YouTube be unblocked?
Although today’s recommendation from the Senate Standing Committee could be another step toward getting the ban on YouTube in Pakistan lifted, it may still be quite some time before that happens. Last year the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights also asked legislators to lift the ban on Pakistan, but obviously that hasn’t happened yet, even though a resolution on the matter was passed unanimously. Officials have gone back and forth on the issue for years.
The resolution that passed last year said the ban could be lifted because there weren’t any provisions like this in place in any other Muslim country, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It’s unclear when the matter will be taken up again or whether lawmakers will actually move to write legislation aimed at unblocking YouTube.
Despite the longstanding ban on YouTube, many Pakistanis still access the website using proxies and the YouTube apps on their smartphones. The YouTube smartphone app on many smartphones has been working for some time, although major internet service providers in Pakistan continue to block it.