IMC to review the restriction of the YouTube in Pakistan


Since the release of the blasphemous movie “Innocence of Muslims” on YouTube in September 2012, the Government of Pakistan has taken stringent measures to demand its removal and limit its access on the internet in Pakistan. The sacrilegious videos stirred violent protests and public outcry in Pakistan and the Arab world.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for Web Evaluation, constituted by the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2006, has the mandate to evaluate and restrict offensive online content in Pakistan. This committee, headed by the Secretary of IT, has representation from different Government of Pakistan Ministries, entities and agencies. The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) last September evaluated the circumstances and concluded that Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) should block YouTube and Facebook in Pakistan on 17 September, 2012 till further orders.

In accordance, the Ministry of IT (MoIT) ordered PTA to block the websites. A Policy Directive was also issued by the Ministry in May, 2012 to PTA to deploy a state of the art technical solution to proactively and independently block blasphemous and pornographic websites. So far, PTA has not been able to implement this Policy Directive. PTA falls under the Cabinet Division and not come under the administrative control of Ministry of Information Technology.

The Ministry of IT also took matters up with the management of YouTube and Facebook for blocking the blasphemous content. In response, Facebook restricted the access and upload of the video. However, Google Inc., management of YouTube, did not remove the content stating that YouTube complies with International laws of principles subject to the laws of United States that do not comply with Pakistan-specific content removal request.

After the new government was sworn in the issue was taken up and the Minister of State for IT invited all relevant stakeholders to find a solution. Henceforth, the Ministry of IT and pertinent stakeholders under the directions of the Minister of State for Information Technology, Anusha Rahman, have been working on viable technical solutions to specifically block the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” movie from YouTube. Research is in progress to determine the factual YouTube links which contain the movie, and development is underway for blocking mechanisms for URLs and links on both the Http and the secure Https protocols to ensure the restraint of controversial content.

The Minister of State for IT &T, Anusha Rahman, has directed to convene Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) for Web Evaluation, which shall be presented with the findings in a meeting in August after Eid ul Fitr for deliberation and discussion. The IM committee shall then make recommendations accordingly whether or not to review the restriction of the YouTube website in Pakistan, which recommendation shall thereafter be placed for approval of the Prime Minister.

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