Pakistan to lift official YouTube ban within days
KARACHI: Pakistan is likely to lift the ban on YouTube within days to reciprocate the move by Google, the parent company, which launched a localised version of the website in Pakistan earlier this week, officials at the helm of developments confirmed to The Express Tribune.
The internet giant, on Tuesday, announced the launch of YouTube’s localised versions for Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, addressing Islamabad’s long-standing dispute regarding the availability of blasphemous content on the world’s largest social video sharing platform.
YouTube has remained blocked in Pakistan since September 17, 2012, a move made by Islamabad after blasphemous content from its platform was not removed.
Islamabad had asked Google to launch a localised version of YouTube, which would have bound the latter to block Pakistani users’ access to blasphemous content as per its community guidelines.
Despite several attempts, Google and the Pakistani government failed to reach any agreement in this regard. The Silicon Valley-based internet giant did not accept the government’s demand, leading to the ban, which has now entered its fourth year.
However, Google has now removed those objectionable videos and launched a local version for Pakistan, which means it will continue to remove such videos in the future as well.
“We have clear community guidelines, and when videos violate those rules, we remove them. In addition, where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we may restrict access to it after a thorough review,” Google’s Communications Manager Zeffri Yusof told this newspaper on Tuesday. “Government requests to remove content will continue to be tracked, and included in our Transparency Report.”
Google has already taken care of Islamabad’s concerns, however, the delay in restoring access to YouTube is on part of the IT ministry.
Though the government has made commitments to lift the ban several times this week, it has yet to take any decision in this regard. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had assured a high-powered business delegation that they would unblock YouTube, but that move is still awaited.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has already confirmed the removal of blasphemous content to the government but there seems to be a willful neglect on part of the government to reverse the decision, officials say. The delay in what is a simple process is sending wrong signals to the international business community, they added.
Despite repeated attempts, there was no response from the IT ministry.
However, an official familiar with the matter confirmed that blasphemous videos have been removed by Google, but added that government is treading with caution.
Explaining the delay, the official said that Google has removed the known [blasphemous] videos but some mischievous elements have uploaded new objectionable videos since the launch of YouTube’s local version. The government has reported these videos to YouTube and they are in the process of removing them as well.
The official, however, added there was no legal hurdle in unblocking the website and government is only monitoring the mechanism – seeing how long Google takes to comply with its request of removing any objectionable content. He, however, confirmed it would not take very long to finalise this issue.
“I am quite confident it [unblocking] will be done next week,” the official said. “Google has addressed our concerns. Now it’s a matter of our credibility to reciprocate and we’ll do it at our earliest,” he added.