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Pakistan, other countries block controversial YouTube video

Google has also blocked the video in some countries

Pakistan will block access within the country to a YouTube film trailer that mocks the Prophet Muhammad and sparked protests at U.S. embassies this week in Libya and Egypt earlier this week, and in Yemen on Thursday, a spokesman for the country's telecom regulator said Thursday.

The 14-minute film trailer, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and killer, set off protests earlier this week in Libya and Egypt. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed when that embassy in Benghazi was stormed by gunmen.

The authenticity of the full film, "Innocence of Muslims" has been called into question since the embassy protests began, but the trailer has continued to circulate on the Internet and by Thursday had 1.3 million views on YouTube.

"We have orders from the ministry of IT and communications to block whatever links are there on YouTube to this video clip," said the spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said.

Google has also decided to block the video in Libya and Egypt, even though it does not violate its guidelines, according to various reports.

The Afghanistan government also decided to block the video on Wednesday.

Google has often refused to remove content considered religiously and politically objectionable as long as it meets its guidelines. In India, for example, it and some other Internet companies have been sued and also criticized by the government for certain controversial religious content on its website.

Google now finds itself having to make a choice between Internet freedom and helping keep the peace, analysts said.

"This video -- which is widely available on the Web -- is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube," Google said in a statement. "However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries.  Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered in yesterday's attack in Libya."

The company said it works hard to create a community everyone can enjoy that also enables people to express different opinions. "This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere," it added.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com


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