The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has blocked 20,000 websites, including the video site YouTube, that show blasphemous or ‘objectionable’ content following an appearance before the Lahore High Court. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, the regulator was accused of criminal negligence for not taking sufficient measures to prevent access to an anti-Muslim video that sparked riots across Pakistan in September. The Times of India cites a PTA official as saying: ‘The PTA has not only blocked websites featuring the anti-Islam film but thousands of others with objectionable material,’ adding that ‘The ban on YouTube will continue as long as it does not remove the blasphemous film.’
Censorship has recently been ramped up in Pakistan in the wake of the film, with cellcos complaining that enforced service blackouts for ‘security reasons’ resulted in significant losses to revenues. The nation has also sought to revive plans for a national URL filtration system – dubbed Pakistan’s ‘great (fire)wall’ – to block objectionable content, though the potential for abuse of the proposed system again sparked a public backlash against the watchdog, which has been accused of misusing its existing powers to block websites for personal and political gain.