Pakistan: Pakistan lifts YouTube ban

Pakistan says it has lifted a ban on YouTube, after the website removed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, adding that an earlier worldwide outage sparked by its actions was unintentional.
Telecommunications officials said that the popular website was up and running again in the conservative Muslim nation after YouTube removed "highly profane and sacrilegious footage" that was offensive to Islam.
"We have issued instructions to all internet service providers that YouTube should be unblocked as the specific content has been removed by the website," Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) spokesman Khurram Mehran said.

YouTube was not immediately available to confirm whether it had removed the material, which the PTA said was controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that were republished by Danish newspapers earlier this month.

Authorities ordered the blocking of the website at the weekend in protest at what it said was blasphemous material but the move prompted worldwide problems with access for a few hours.

YouTube said on Monday that an internet service provider complying with Pakistan's ban on the website routed many worldwide users to nowhere for a couple of hours over the weekend.

"This was not intentional and might have happened when an international company, which is routing internet traffic to Pakistan, tried to block the specific [web address]," a senior PTA official said.

The ban was only partially effective, with industry officials saying that some Pakistani users were able to access YouTube through at least one major service provider that relies on a foreign-based router.

YouTube earlier said it was working to ensure there could be no repeat of the worldwide problems sparked by Pakistan's actions.

"For about two hours (Sunday), traffic to YouTube was routed according to erroneous internet Protocols, and many users around the world could not access our site," YouTube said in a written reply to an inquiry.

"We have determined that the source of these events was a network in Pakistan. We are investigating and working with others in the internet community to prevent this from happening again."

Some Pakistani users have expressed doubts over the official reason for Pakistan's YouTube ban, saying that authorities wanted to block access to footage of alleged rigging in last week's parliamentary elections.

President Pervez Musharraf's allies lost heavily to opposition parties in the polls, which were preceded by allegations of massive vote fraud.

"Some internet users are sceptical that the Government banned YouTube because it contained clips from a private television station which showed election rigging," said Wahaj us Siraj, chief of the Pakistan Internet Service Providers Association.

Internet user Sajid Ali said the ban was unnecessary because Muslims in Pakistan would not want to access blasphemous material anyway.

"No Muslim would want to view the blasphemous content on any website. The Government is really disturbed over its defeat in elections and afraid of critical videos and remarks on YouTube," Ali, a banker, said.

27 February 2008