Still not accessible: YouTube ban
FOR users of YouTube, the popular video-sharing website that has been blocked in Pakistan since September 2012, there is little on the horizon indicating that a lifting of the ban is imminent. Efforts are being made to challenge the blackout in the judiciary, with petitions being heard in the Lahore and Peshawar high courts. The Lahore High Court is not happy with Google, which owns YouTube, for its apparent lack of willingness to attend case hearings. However, at its core this is not a purely legal issue but one of access to information. The internet is a vast expanse, with all sorts of material spread across its far reaches. Considering this, citizens cannot be denied access to important portals on the web simply due to the existence of a few offensive links. The state does not realise the importance of sites like YouTube. While it is true that such websites do host some inane and even outright offensive material (such as the anti-Islam film trailer that originally ignited the controversy), there is also far more productive content that web users are denied access to when states enforce blanket bans. This includes entertainment content, such as popular ditties and classic movie clips, as well as content of a more educational and informational nature (online lectures, tutorials, etc) along with rare archival footage.
Considering the educational and informational value of YouTube, as well as people’s right to access information, perhaps the best course for Pakistan would be to work on a mutual legal assistance treaty with the US. Through this, websites can be directed to respect the laws of other countries. Such arrangements are in place elsewhere in the world, and facilitate in filtering out objectionable content. Hence, it is hoped the courts direct the government to pursue such a treaty so that the YouTube blockade is lifted soon, and the next time deliberately provocative content is uploaded, a more intelligent approach is used to counter the move instead of blocking entire websites.