Pakistan has asked YouTube to immediately block all “objectionable” videos from being accessed in the country. The Pakistan Telecom Authority has asked the platform to “immediately block vulgar, indecent, immoral, nude and hate speech content for viewing in Pakistan”. This was reported by Yahoo! News. The PTA’s order said that:
PTA has done so keeping in view the extremely negative effects of indecent / immoral / nude content available on YouTube and to prevent repugnant discord due to the presence of hate speech and sectarian material.
YouTube has also been directed to put in place “an effective content monitoring and moderation mechanism” in that “unlawful material is detected / deleted and not accessible within Pakistan”, according to PTA’s statement.
The ban shows Pakistan’s tightening grip over social media and online content. In February, the Pakistani government notified a law the required social media companies to, among other things, remove illegal content within 24 hours. It gave the government unfettered power to deem any content illegal, offensive, anti-Pakistan, or extremist. For instance, it even requires that accounts of Pakistani diaspora be taken down, if they share objectionable content.
Pakistan’s tightening grip over the internet
Pakistan had blocked YouTube for three years, which was removed in 2016. The company was allowed to restore services only after it launched a local version that allowed the Pakistani government to demand removal of offensive content. Pakistan had banned YouTube in September 2012 after an anti-Islam movie, “Innocence of Muslims“, was uploaded, sparking violent protests in Pakistan’s major cities.
In July, Pakistan issued a final warning to Bytedance’s TikTok, ordering it remove any obscene content. Soon after, TikTok updated its community guidelines and released an Urdu version. TikTok has also removed violative content and suspended or banned accounts that were repeatedly violating policy. It also blocked video app Bigo Live.
In November 2017, Pakistan had blocked access to block Facebook, YouTube, DailyMotion, Twitter and Instagram in parts of the country, when security forces moved to break up a demonstration in Faizabad. Also, most private news channels were taken off-air in Islamabad and other parts of the country.
In July, the Pakistani Supreme Court took notice of “objectionable content” being shared on YouTube and other social media platforms, reported The Dawn. It issued notices to the Attorney General and Foreign Office. This was reportedly following a judgement on a case the previous day which was then discussed on YouTube. The public has a right to comment on the judiciary’s performance and judgements but social media “did not even spare their families and shamed the judges”. People incite others against the Pakistan Army, judiciary, and government, one Supreme Court judge said. “There are several countries where YouTube is banned. Try uploading content against America and the European Union,” he said.