According to the Reuters India Twitter account, the Pakistani prime minister has ordered the suspension of YouTube after more violence has broken out around the country in reaction to an anti-Islam film.
Protests in many Islamic countries have broken out after a trailers for to the independently made film, ‘Innocence of Muslims’ emerged a few weeks ago. The first protests erupted in Cairo, Egypt and unrest has spread across North Africa and the Middle East.
The suspension of YouTube in Pakistan is likely to be an attempt to slow down the spread of violence. According to the BBC, at least one protester has been killed in protests, thousands have attended a rally in the Philippines and weapons were fired and police cars set alight in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The trailer alone has sparked huge amounts of violent outrage. The BBC also reports that ‘the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah has said the US faces “very dangerous” repercussions if it allows the full video to be released.’
The report says that in a rare public appearance, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told a rally in Beirut that the world did not understand the “breadth of the humiliation” caused by the “worst attack ever on Islam”.
The film trailer is horribly made and generally blunt and insulting, but it also creates a big problem for Google as the owner of YouTube, when it comes to freedom of speech and of course avoiding further violent protests.
AP reported last week that YouTube was blocking the video. In a statement YouTube said, “We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video — which is widely available on the web — is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. 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.”
As the EFF points out, this is an unusual move from the video giant. This highlights a difficulty in regional blocking and the choices the company makes when it comes to blocking in some countries and not others. If it is blocked in Libya and Egypt, where else should it be blocked or should it in fact be removed?
Total censorship is never a particularly appealing alternative, but in the case of regional and time-based blocking, YouTube needs to be careful as our digital rights are only just being formulated in many countries around the world. Past precedence is a powerful argument and it is hard to predict where this may be used in future.
Seeing violence of this type break out in various regions is a stark reminder that Internet companies are not just reponsible for a digital realm.
Image Credit: Jonsson