Government is not ready to spend 3 Billion PKR to restore Youtube due to financial constraints

By Maryam Dodhy on
August 29, 2015
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Government is required to spend 3 Billion PKR to install the required filters to block all the blasphemous content from the platform, a report by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority suggests.

According to The News the report that PTA put forth, if the government could spend Rs. 3 billion to install filters that block all blasphemous content, YouTube would then be easily restored in the country. However, the ministry of Information Technology refused this suggestion citing financial constraints. As a result, the site is to remain blocked for an indefinite period of time.

Let’s go back a little and give you a history lesson about the infamous blocking of YouTube. In September 2012, YouTube hosted a video called “Innocence of Muslims” which sparked violent protests in Muslim countries. Fatwa’s were issued against the makers of the video, even YouTube and its parent company Google were not spared. They were ordered to take down the blasphemous video. That didn’t happen because YouTube was of the opinion that the organization is not directly responsible for any deceptive acts carried out by the video makers and publishers. Following that massive fiasco, YouTube was blocked in several Muslim countries.

Currently, the only countries with standing national bans on YouTube are Pakistan, China, Iran, Turkmenistan and Germany. Some Muslim countries that banned YouTube following the 2012 episode have since had it restored. Reportedly, Saudi Arabia also uses the aforementioned YouTube filters allowing citizens to browse freely.

However, YouTube still remains a dangling issue in Pakistan. Back in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the site should be banned until a way was found to block all blasphemous content. In February this year, officials announced that the site will remain blocked for an indefinite time period. However, there have been reports of the site being temporary unblocked and several people have been able to use it without any proxy. Most recently, Watan Party leader Barrister Zafarullah Khan submitted a petition on 24th August in Supreme Court’s Lahore registry, seeking an end to the ongoing ban on world’s biggest video streaming site YouTube.

But it seems that the ban will remain standing even though PTA has suggested the use of filters to the government. According to The News, back in 2013, the government had requested for a report from the PTA on the use and application of surfing filters to block offensive and blasphemous content. Following that order, a detailed report was sent to the government on the installation of filters also stating that it would cost Rs. 3 billion. After that, the government seems to have cooled down on the idea of restoring YouTube.

The report also mentioned that the filters will not be able to ensure 100% removal of the blasphemous content from the website due to the fact that the content is user generated and some users may upload the same material with different names to trick the system. But this is not entirely a lost cause. 80 – 90% filtering is still good enough.

But at this point, the ban seems highly absurd since people have found other ways to access YouTube. It can be used via proxy’s, some people can use it via the YouTube app in their phones and there are numerous alternate websites available as well. So the point behind banning YouTube is defeated since many Pakistani’s have already seen that blasphemous material. The longer the government keeps the ban, the longer they are depriving people from the good that comes with YouTube.

When PML-N came to power in 2013, they promised to lift the ban for the sake of millions of students who want to use its services for educational purposes and for those who want to earn a living through the platform. Government is investing billions of rupees in other projects which indicates that funds haven’t run completely dry. A little money spent on this cause would do some actual good to our citizens – particularly our students and internet entrepreneurs.

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