Social media hard-liners, Pakistan and Iran, continue to deprive their citizens’ access to websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. While Iranian internet users were banned once again from using Facebook and Twitter after being gifted one-day access, Pakistanis marked their one-year anniversary of the nation’s YouTube ban on Tuesday.
Many Iranians rejoiced their good luck on Monday when they discovered that a technical glitch gave them direct access to Facebook and Twitter for the first time in four years. The social media websites along with YouTube were blocked amid widespread protests against former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
Meanwhile, their neighbors in Pakistan continue to be denied access to Google’s video-streaming platform, YouTube. The ban was imposed on September 17, 2012 after a trailer of an amateur film called ‘Innocence Of Muslims’ was posted on the website sparking outrage over its ‘blasphemous’ content.
While the video sparked violent protests across the country and other parts of the Muslim world last year, the ban has been a constant source of frustration for many internet users across the Islamic country.
YouTube is like the front page for online videos, which is why a nation-wide ban affects everyone, especially professionals and students who rely on in for learning or work-related purposes.
Pakistanis have at various points in time applied pressure on their government to restore YouTube access as soon as possible.
Bangladesh also imposed a YouTube ban over the controversial video post on the same day as Pakistan but lifted it on June 5 this year.
A petition was filed with a Pakistani court in January by a local non-governmental organization (NGO) to remove the ban. ‘Bytes4All’ (B4A) maintained that internet censorship was a blatant violation of the Pakistan’s constitution, citing Article-19 and Article-19A that provides for Freedom of Expression and the Right to Information.
Due to Google’s absence from court hearings, the presiding judges did not take a decision on the ban.
Currently, the debate is on going with civil groups fighting the ban while the government continues to consider its next move.
According local reports, members of the Pakistan’s newly-elected government acknowledged the challenges the YouTube block poses, but maintained that officials must weigh “freedom of information against offending the public.”
Social media bans in both Iran and Pakistan do little to prevent people from viewing ‘offensive’ or ‘blasphemous’ videos, because websites can be accessed through proxy servers and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). However, indirect access leads to host of other problems such as streaming speed.
Also, these types of censorships bring to question essential freedoms and the rights of citizens in any democracy.
Here are some tweets that tell us that some Pakistanis have had enough.
Twitter party for #YouTube tomorrow. 1st birthday celebrations of the ban. Post a link with a proxy.— ツ norbert نور برٹ (@norbalm) September 16, 2013
Youtube and internet ban in #Pakistan is a boobytrap and mining by the extremists. They have hostaged government and common people.— Zubair Faisal Abbasi (@zubairabbasi) September 17, 2013
"Just because of 1 dirty book, you don't lock the whole library". Our piece on Pakistan's year-old Youtube ban http://t.co/63bCf1enQM— Aleem Maqbool (@AleemMaqbool) September 17, 2013