Categories: CultureTechnology

Pakistan once took down YouTube worldwide: Here’s how!

Censorship is a prevalent phenomenon in Pakistan. Anything from digital content to physical one, Pakistan’s authorities have been proactively involved in censoring religiously offensive, sexually explicit, or any similar content in Pakistan.

Especially after Musharraf’s regime, Pakistan blocked hundreds if not thousands of websites on the internet. It is estimated that Pakistan has blocked more than 1000 porn websites alone. However, during the initial phases of banning websites, Pakistan lacked the technical skills needed to fulfil and implement such actions. Furthermore, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) resorted to contacting PTCL (Telecommunications Company) which was itself unable to create such protocols.

Consequently, Pakistan resorted to commissioning foreign agencies or corporations that allowed for better control and targeting. Moreover, these firms were mostly based in Malaysia. However, even those firms failed to deliver a comprehensive filtering system for the Pakistani government.

One way or the other, PTA acquired a system to filter websites that were being propagated to Pakistan’s internet sphere. As of today, PTA filters out websites which are critical of internal policies, anti-Islamic, or sexually explicit.

Social Media in Pakistan have become a target of censorship in Pakistan from time to time. Source: Pixabay

In the start of 2008, PTA went after YouTube due to their “non-Islamic objectionable videos”. One of the major reasons for this activism was a Dutch film that “contain[ed] blasphemous content”. A report was published later which highlighted the same proposition behind the ban.

In February 2008, PTA  officially imposed a ban on YouTube services and broadcasting in the country. This ban was imposed under Section 295-C [Blasphemy Law].

In this situation, the same problem arose as before and Pakistan struggled to implement a locking mechanism.

At the end of it all, PTA finally brought the measures in place and BAM! YouTube banned in Pakistan. However, it turns out that due to misconfiguration by an ISP in the country, YouTube went down all across the world for several hours. In an article named “Pakistan move knocked out YouTube”, CNN stated that “The block was intended to cover only Pakistan but extended to about two-thirds of the global Internet population”.

From a technical standpoint, something like this seems completely impossible to do. Yet, it happened and is now a part of our country’s obscure internet history.

Years down the line, the authorities got the video removed and finally Pakistan YouTube unblocked.

Saqib Ali

A computer science enthusiast with an interest in social and political issues of Pakistan.

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