ISLAMABAD (By Tommy Wilkes, Reuters) — Pakistan said on Monday it had removed a three-year ban on YouTube after the Google-owned video-sharing website launched a local version that allows the government to remove material it considers offensive.
Pakistan banned access to YouTube in September 2012 after an anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims,” was uploaded to the site, sparking violent protests across major cities in the Muslim-majority country of 190 million people.
The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom said in a statement that under the new version of YouTube, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority can ask for access to offending material to be blocked.
“On the recommendation of PTA, Government of Pakistan has allowed access to recently launched country version of YouTube for Internet users in Pakistan,” the ministry said.
“Google has provided an online web process through which requests for blocking access of the offending material can be made by PTA to Google directly and Google/YouTube will accordingly restrict access to the said offending material for users within Pakistan.”
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in Pakistan, where angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam. The crime of blasphemy can carry the death penalty, although a death sentence has never been carried out.
Pakistan has blocked thousands of web pages it deems undesirable in the last few years as internet access spreads, but activists say the government sometimes blocks sites to muzzle liberal or critical voices.