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Pakistan Lifts YouTube Ban For Just Three Minutes

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Government firewall fails to block unsavoury YouTube content

Pakistan, which had banned YouTube over a controversial video, allowed access to the Google-owned site again over the weekend, but it lasted for just three minutes.

The ban was imposed after a video known as “Innocence of Muslims”, which ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad, appeared on YouTube. It was the subject of anti-US protests in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, one of which led to the death of the US ambassador to Libya.

YouTube © bloomua Shutterstock 2012I predict a YouTube riot

YouTube made the video inaccessible in Egypt and Libya, but did not remove the video from the site or prevent access in other parts of the world.

Pakistan thought it had successfully censored blasphemous material from the website, but after lifting the ban, it found enough offensive content to shut down access again after a few minutes.

Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, had indicated the ban would be lifted over the weekend and the government followed through with the promise.

He said there was great demand “from all sections of society” to unblock YouTube.

“PTA [Pakistan Telecommunication Authority] is finalising negotiations for acquiring a powerful firewall software to totally block pornographic and blasphemous material,” read another. Yet those firewalls, reportedly designed by government technicians, proved ineffective.

According to the New York Times, the ban was lifted after pressure from the influential television news network Geo, which found that anti-Islam content could still be viewed on YouTube.

Many in Pakistan remain angry at the ban, claiming it amounts to an attack on citizens’ rights.

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