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Has no treaty with Google or filter system to stop blasphemous sites; inter-ministerial meeting calls for accord with Google; PTA chief says blocking YouTube only immediate solution
 
 
Ansar Abbasi
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
From Print Edition
 
 

 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan was forced to block the video sharing site YouTube completely on Monday after the authorities realised that the government has not installed a filtration system and does not have a treaty with Google that would block objectionable videos.

 

The prime minister ordered the blockage of YouTube after the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and other relevant agencies recommended that the government as well as the Supreme Court should completely block YouTube for a few days to prevent access from Pakistan of the latest anti-Islam film available on the internet.

 

While countries like India and Indonesia have successfully got such blasphemous sites blocked through the intervention of the Google/YouTube administration, Pakistan was helpless because of the incompetence of the IT authorities as it has neither any such treaty with Google nor has the filtration system installed to block the blasphemous and pornographic sites.

 

In an inter-ministerial meeting attended by officials of the Interior Ministry, Information Technology, PTA, FIA and other agencies here on Monday, it was unanimously recommended that as a short term measure YouTube should be blocked altogether with immediate effect. The long-term solution is to enter into a treaty with Google (which owns YouTube now) that will enable the signatory state to get any objectionable site blocked from Google.

 

In the absence of any such treaty with Pakistan, Google, despite earning a profit of almost Rs50 million from Pakistani internet users in just one year, is not there to cooperate with the local authorities. The Pakistani authorities had approached Google but to no avail.

 

The inter-ministerial meeting was told by the experts of the PTA that in the absence of the treaty, which Pakistan has never thought of signing in the past, and owing to the fact that Pakistan does not have any filtration system installed like China, Saudi Arab, Iran and several other countries have, it is not possible to block the anti-Islam film without completely blocking YouTube.

 

The PTA chairman, when approached, said the only immediate solution was the complete blockage of YouTube as chasing objectionable sites in ones and twos would not solve the problem. He said hundreds of sites, where the film was accessible, were blocked but the blasphemous material continues to appear on innumerable other sites.

 

The chairman told The News that he was writing to the apex court that there was no solution to this immediate challenge, but to completely block YouTube for a few days. The long-term solution, the PTA chairman confirmed, is a treaty to be signed between government of Pakistan and Google administration that would take some time.

 

According to sources, the issue badly exposes the Pakistani IT authorities as they had not even signed a treaty with the Google administration in line with the initiative taken by India four years ago. Unlike Pakistan, the sources said Indian has already blocked the blasphemous film by taking up the matter with Google in time under the terms of the treaty signed between them.

 

The sources said Malaysia also has the same treaty with the Google/YouTube administration. Pakistan is, however, so inefficient and indifferent to such issues that it does not even have a filtration system installed that can effectively help check blasphemous and pornographic sites. Interestingly, the incumbent prime minister during his tenure as the minister for IT in May this year had got a notification issued for the installation of the filtration system to check blasphemous and pornographic material, but nothing has been done as yet.

 

On Monday, the Supreme Court said the PTA is under legal obligation to control such material but it has failed to perform its statutory duties. Therefore, directions are issued to the PTA to block the anti-Islam film on YouTube and refrain in future as well from allowing such material to be displayed.