Islamabad: The Pakistan government is in talks with Google to localize YouTube, a move which could pave the way for the popular video sharing website to be unblocked in the Islamic country.
Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunications Anusha Rehman told the Senate Standing Committee on Tuesday that if certain conditions of the Google management are met, YouTube will be accessible as “http://YouTube.com.pk”, a local search engine.
The world’s largest videos sharing website was blocked in the country in September 2012 on the orders of then Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. The ban was imposed after YouTube refused to heed to Pakistan government’s request to remove ‘Innocence of the Muslims’ from the website, a film that was considered blasphemous and sparked violence in many Muslim countries across the world.
The government has been trying to block specific videos but has been unable to do so till now. Rehman explained to the committee that the government had succeeded in convincing the Google management about religious sensitivities of Pakistanis.
The local search engine will also make it easier to block any blasphemous or objectionable content, she was quoted as saying. Rehman, however, said the management of Google will do so after the government of Pakistan meets some of its conditions.
“Management of Google/YouTube has shown its willingness to localise YouTube in Pakistan provided they will not be held responsible if blasphemous content is placed and uploaded on its website,” Rehman said.
“The web service will not be held responsible for blasphemous content uploaded on its sites as that will be a personal action of the individual,” she said quoting the Google management.
“The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is finalizing a draft ordinance which will be processed by the ministry for enactment as law,” Rehman said. She said that once YouTube was localized, blocking objectionable content would be easier.
“Instead of installing costly filtration mechanisms, Google will easily be able to block blasphemous content on the request of the Pakistan government. Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have also reached a similar arrangement with Google,” Rehman said.
Localizing YouTube would also mean that Google would not be violating its own company law of hindering freedom of expression, the minister argued. This was also a request from the management of Google to the government of Pakistan, she said. Rehman, however, said she could not give an exact date for the re-opening of YouTube.