Pakistan lifts curbs on YouTube, says 'blasphemous' video has been removed
Pakistani regulator lifts block on YouTube
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan's telecommunications regulator said Tuesday that it had lifted restrictions imposed on YouTube over an anti-Islamic video clip, but rejected blame for a cut in access to the Web site in many countries over the weekend. The authority told Pakistani Internet service providers to restore access to the site Tuesday afternoon after the removal of a video featuring a Dutch lawmaker who has said he plans to release a movie portraying Islam as fascist and prone to inciting violence against women and homosexuals. Officials here have described the YouTube clip as "very blasphemous" and warned that it could fan religious fanaticism and hatred of the West in Pakistan.
The government already faces a growing Islamic insurgency. But Pakistan says it did not want to interfere with access to YouTube outside Pakistan. "We are not hackers. Why would we do that?" said Shahzada Alam Malik, head of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. YouTube's wider problem were likely caused by a "malfunction" elsewhere, he said. The lawmaker said his film criticizing the Quran will be completed this week and criticized Pakistan for its moves to block the clip. "It's far from a true democracy," said the lawmaker, Geert Wilders. "A real democracy must be able to bear some criticism." He said in a telephone interview with that his short film is in the final stages of editing.
Telecommunication Authority spokeswoman Nabiha Mahmood said attempts to access the offending clip on Tuesday afternoon brought up only a message explaining that it had been removed on ethical grounds.
She said the telecom regulator had posted a complaint through the Web site -- a facility open to any registered user -- but had not been in contact with the administrators of YouTube.com, which is owned by Google, Inc.
The authority wanted to restrict the site only in Pakistan but the move inadvertently cut access for most of the world's Internet users for up to two hours on Sunday, highlighting the vulnerability of the Internet.
Spokesman Ricardo Reyes said YouTube was pleased to confirm that the site was again accessible in Pakistan. YouTube said Monday that the cut was caused by a network in Pakistan. Reyes would not comment further on the cause of the global outage, but said the company is continuing to look at ways to prevent recurrences.
Todd Underwood, a senior manager at Renesys Corp, a U.S. company that tracks the pathways of the Internet, said a Pakistani telecommunications company complied with the block by directing requests for YouTube videos to a "black hole."
The problem was that the company accidentally identified itself to Internet computers as the world's fastest route to YouTube, leading requests from across the Internet to same dead end, Underwood said.
"This I would say could be an accident, or could be some technical defect or malfunction," Malik said. "We never wanted to do that and I don't think our technical people have done it."
Pakistani officials want to prevent a repeat of the violent anti-Western protests in early 2006 after a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad regarded by many Muslims as offensive.
The upper house of Pakistan's parliament on Tuesday passed a resolution condemning the reprinting of the cartoons this month in Danish newspapers.
On Tuesday, some 300 students rallied at a university in the central city of Multan, carrying banners denouncing Denmark, the United States and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf -- the latest in a series of small protests held by Islamic students in Pakistan.
While a raft of other videos featuring Wilders would remain visible to Pakistani Internet surfers, Mahmood said the one which was removed had been "totally anti-Quranic ... very blasphemous."
She said it promoted Wilders' upcoming movie, but provided no detail of its content.
Abdullah Riar, Pakistan's minister for information technology and telecommunications, said authorities worried that Islamic hard-liners would seize on the clip.
He said the cause of protecting free speech in Pakistan was better served by preventing confrontation between Muslims and the West than allowing the clip to be shown, despite the publicity generated by the temporary ban.
"We are already in the spotlight on the issue of intolerance and extremism and terrorism and this is something that somebody is doing by design to excite and insinuate Islamic sentiments," Riar said.
He said the unintended effects were "very unfortunate. We have nothing against the YouTube site itself."
AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson contributed to this report.