Islamabad: The Pakistani government blocked access to YouTube on Thursday because of “sacrilegious” content on the video-sharing website, signaling a growing Internet crackdown against sites deemed offensive to the country’s majority Muslim population.
The move against YouTube came a day after the government blocked access to Facebook because of a page on the social networking site that encourages users to post images of Prophet Muhammad. The page sparked criticism because Islam prohibits any images of the prophet.
A Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) official, who declined to be identified, said the action was taken after the authority determined that some caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad were transferred from Facebook to YouTube.
The PTA did not point to specific material on YouTube that prompted it to block the site, only citing “growing sacrilegious contents.” The government took action against both Facebook and YouTube after it failed to persuade the websites to remove the “derogatory material,” the regulatory body said in a statement.
Wahaj-us-Siraj, the CEO of Nayatel, an Internet service provider, said PTA issued an order late on Wednesday seeking an “immediate” blockade of YouTube.
“It was a serious instruction as they wanted us to do it quickly and let them know after that,” he told Reuters.
The regulatory body said it has blocked more than 450 Internet links containing offensive material. It is unclear how many of the links were blocked in the last two days.
Access to the online encyclopedia site Wikipedia and the photo sharing site Flickr was also restricted on Thursday.
YouTube was also blocked in the Muslim country in 2007 for about a year for what it called un-Islamic videos.
Siraj said the blocking of the two websites would cut up to 25% of total Internet traffic in Pakistan.
“It’ll have an impact on the overall Internet traffic as they eat up 20 to 25% of the country’s total 65 giga-bytes traffic,” he said.
Publications of similar cartoons in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked deadly protests in Muslim countries. Around 50 people were killed during violent protests in Muslim countries in 2006 over the cartoons, five of them in Pakistan.
The PTA welcomed representatives from the two websites to contact the Pakistani government to resolve the dispute in a way that “ensures religious harmony and respect.”