Pakistan bans YouTube amid furor over anti-Islam video

Prime minister calls the clip "blasphemous" and instructs the Ministry of Information to block access to the video site.

The prime minister of Pakistan has banned YouTube in the country over the video site's refusal to block a clip that mocks the prophet Muhammad.

Reuters reports that Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered the country's Ministry of Information to block YouTube so the video, which he called "blasphemous," could not be viewed.

The majority of Pakistani Internet traffic is routed through the Pakistan Internet Exchange, which is run by the state-owned Pakistan Telecommunication Company. The exchange's ability to filter content has so far been limited, spurring the country earlier this year to publish a request for proposals for a more sophisticated system that would block up to 50 million URLs. The country has previously sought to block access to YouTube videos, including a clip of a Dutch lawmaker in 2008. In 2010, it also sought a blanket ban on "objectionable content" surrounding a Facebook page called "Post Drawings of the Prophet Mohammad Day."
A protest in Egypt is one of many that have erupted in the wake of an anti-Islam film posted to YouTube.
A protest in Egypt is one of many that have erupted in the wake of an anti-Islam film posted to YouTube. CBS News
The Middle East erupted in protests last week in reaction to "Innocence of Muslims," a video on YouTube that depicts Muhammad as a buffoon. Posted in July, the clip by Southern California filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula serves as a trailer for an upcoming movie.

But violent protests of the video claimed the lives of four Americans working for the State Department in Benghazi, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

In the aftermath, the White House called for YouTube to take down the clip , which the company declined to do on free-speech grounds. But it has blocked access to the clip in India, Indonesia, Libya, and Egypt, saying the video's content is illegal in those countries.

Over the weekend, CNET's Charles Cooper explored the difficult balance YouTube is attempting here: trying to support free expression on one hand while trying not to incite violence.

CNET has contacted YouTube for comment on the situation in Pakistan and will update this post when we hear back.

Update, 10:54 a.m. PT: Adds details on Pakistan's Internet system and on the country's history in regard to blocking content.

 

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