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Pakistan Lifts Ban on YouTube after Local Version Launch

Yesterday, Pakistan announced that it has lifted the ban on YouTube. The announcement came after the launch of a local version of the AlphabetGOOGL -owned video-sharing website that allows the government to remove any material it deems offensive.

In a statement the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom said that this version of YouTube gives the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) access and authority to block any material that it considers disruptive.

The ministry said, "On the recommendation of PTA, the government of Pakistan has allowed access to the recently launched country version of YouTube for internet users in Pakistan".

The online search giant, however, clarified that the material would be removed only after a proper review, similar to the process followed in other jurisdictions with local YouTube versions. It also said that Government requests to remove content would be publicly reported.

"We have clear community guidelines, and when videos violate those rules, we remove them," the company said in a statement.

In Sep 2012, Pakistan banned access to YouTube after an anti-Islam film, "Innocence of Muslims", was uploaded to the site. The film led to violent protests across major cities in the country.

In Pakistan, blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue and there have been instances where mobs have ended up killing many people indicted of insulting Islam. In fact, blasphemy carries a death penalty, though there has been no instance of the penalty being actually carried out.

Over the last few years, Pakistan has blocked thousands of web pages it considers objectionable. However, some activists are of the opinion that at times the government blocks sites to silence liberal or critical voices.

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