The people of Pakistan will not be able to watch video-sharing website ‘YouTube’ any time soon as the government has failed to make any progress on the issue of preventing blasphemous and pornographic content on the website, The News reported.
Sources said, contrary to tall claims made by some cabinet members, there is no actual urgency on part of the government to unblock the world’s largest video sharing website for millions of Pakistani who use it for educational and entertainment purposes.
On August 23, the Minister of State for IT and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman had claimed that reopening of ‘YouTube’ is just a matter of few days as her ministry has devised a technological solution in collaboration with PTCL to block blasphemous content on the website. However, according to reliable sources, the ground reality is totally in contrast with Anusha’s claims as there is still no such solution available with the Ministry.
That is why exactly two months after the Minister’s statement, the opening of ‘YouTube’ is still elusive for internet users.The website was banned in Pakistan on September 17, 2012 after countrywide violent protests over a blasphemous film,“Innocence of Muslim”.
The top officials of the Ministry are deflecting blame on Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for delay in the installation of internet filters to block objectionable content.“We are waiting for PTA to come up with a technological solution with the help of service-providers so that we can open the website without blasphemous content,” said Kamran Ali Khattak, member Legal Ministry of IT who is also official spokesman of the Ministry.
He said only PTA has the capacity to block the offensive website, therefore, the Ministry is waiting for a green signal from the Authority to convene the meeting of Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for reopening ‘YouTube’. However, an official of PTA expressed shock over the statement saying it was not the authority’s job to install filters on websites.
“Under PTA Act 1996, the authority has the responsibility to regulate telecommunication sector but the law does not provide for internet monitoring or blocking of websites by PTA,” said the official. He said the Authority has already communicated to the Ministry that installation of filters is beyond its capacity as it involves certain technological and legal issues.
However, he said the Authority has prepared a complaint handling mechanism under which officials are available round the clock to receive complaints by telephone or emails regarding existence of offensive content on the Internet.
“As soon as we receive a complaint, we verify that and immediately block the URLs containing objectionable content but installation of filters on ‘YouTube’ is a different task which is beyond our capacity and mandate,” the official said.
Sources said opening of ‘YouTube’ may take a very long time as the government would need to make amendments in the relevant laws besides investing heavily on installation of technology to ensure only “safe and uncontroversial” content is available on the website.
They said the easiest possible solution was to convince Google, the parent company of ‘YouTube’, to block access to the blasphemous videos like it did in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Egypt and Libya after protest by the respective governments. However, so far, Google has refused to accommodate Pakistani government’s request in this regard.