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Pakistan blocks YouTube

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Updated: Pakistan became the latest nation to block access to YouTube, although much of the country has now had access restored.

The plug was pulled late last week by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, but mistakes over the weekend meant the site was blocked worldwide for more than an hour on Sunday, the BBC reports.

Reports suggested that the PTA ordered all ISPs in the country to block access because: "The ratio of non-Islamic objectionable videos has increased on it." The BBC reports that the blocking of YouTube's IP address was then passed onto other ISPs around the world, resulting in a global outage.

A spokeswoman for the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority told the Register: "We only implement the policy set by the Ministry of Information Technology. On Friday we wrote to ISPs asking them to block YouTube as requested by the Ministry."

The video hosting site has been blocked by countries before - by Turkey for videos that insulted the country's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, by Thailand for rude content about the king, and in Morocco for hosting content about Western Saharan independence.

Wahaj us Siraj, convener of the Association of Pakistan Internet Service Providers, said: "YouTube is available again now. It was blocked because of videos depicting humiliation of the Prophet that were blasphemous in nature."

Siraj explained that the two main backbone providers in Pakistan were dealing differently with the problem - TWA is routing traffic to a proxy then filtering for the specific URL of the offending videos, but PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited) is unable to filter such URLs so has just blocked the whole website.

Anyone in Pakistan trying to access YouTube via the TWA backbone, about 40 per cent of the population, should have access to the site apart from the pages considered by authorities to be offensive.

The site was originally blocked in its entirety by both providers.

Asked if the blockage was really about religion or if politics may have played a role, Siraj told the Reg: "There have been rumours. On Thursday local TV showed some allegations of poll rigging (Pakistan's presidential election was last week), some of this was uploaded onto YouTube and the ban came on Friday. But this is just a hoax, the problem with the videos had been known for some time."

The problem spread beyond Pakistan when YouTube was blocked across the world for more than an hour. It seems this was caused by a vulnerability with how internet routing tables deal with IP numbers. Ars Technica has more here. ®

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