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Pakistan blocks 20,000 sites in wake of anti-Islam vid

YouTube just the start for anxious censors

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Pakistani authorities have revealed that a whopping 20,000 web sites have been taken offline as part of a nationwide crackdown on “objectionable” content.

The purge took places as part of government efforts across the Muslim world in the wake of widespread anger at “Innocence of Muslims” – a film ridiculing the Prophet Muhammed which was subsequently uploaded to Google’s popular video-sharing site.

Google refused to take the video down, claiming it remained within YouTube guidelines, however it bowed to pressure from governments in various countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt by restricting access according to local laws.

However, in Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere, governments were forced to take matters into their own hands and block YouTube.

It has now been revealed that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has gone even further, blocking tens of thousands of sites.

It seems this is partly in response to pressure from the courts, after the PTA chairman was personally cited in a case in Lahore as responsible for blocking all footage of the controversial film on the web, PTI reported.

Things don’t look good for Google in the near future either.

"The ban on YouTube will continue as long as it does not remove the blasphemous film. Pakistan can take no chances on lifting the ban as people are not ready to accept this film," a PTA official told PTI.

If such censorship restrictions persist, it could harm the web giant’s ambitious plans to tap what has already become a $500m market.

NGO Freedom House said Pakistan registered one of the steepest declines in internet freedom over the past year, despite apparently shelving any immediate plans to build a China-like nationwide firewall.

“Pakistan’s downgrade reflected extreme punishments meted out for dissemination of allegedly blasphemous messages and the increasingly aggressive efforts of the telecom regulator to censor content transmitted via information and communications technologies (ICTs),” the report said. ®

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