Pakistan Briefly Raises Youtube Banhammer; Reinstates It Three Minutes Later

from the targeted-blocking-software-fails-to-block-main-target dept

Pakistan's love/hate relationship with the internet seems to be mostly “hate” these days. Over the past couple of years, the Pakistani government has done as much as it can to cripple local access to the web, including seeking a nationwide web filtering system that would block off access to 50 million websites.

More recently, it joined a variety of nations which imposed a Youtube ban (or at least complained loudly and violently) because of Google's refusal to block or remove the “Innocence of the Muslims” video. Reacting to violent protests, Pakistan cut off Youtube, much to the dismay of its estimated 25 million internet users.

After the protests switched from decrying the offending video to decrying the offending censorious government, Pakistan decided to lift the ban… only to put it back in less time than it takes to sing [insert viral pop tune title here]:

A ban on YouTube, which Pakistan imposed after an anti-Islam video caused riots in much of the Muslim world, was lifted Saturday, only to be reinstated — after three minutes — when it was discovered that blasphemous material was still available on the site.

Much to the censor's dismay, the offending video remained just where the uploader had left it. The government stated it had “taken steps” to block offending content, but somehow the very thing that had prompted the shutdown had eluded the blockade, putting Muhammed directly in the path of badly-dubbed criticism.

This three-minute unbanning prompted another round of government-aimed criticism, this time with a bit more of a sarcastic edge, as a Pakistani journalist compared interior minister Rehman Malik to a kid playing with the light switch and pointed out that the same government that couldn't handle a website wants to be entrusted with stopping terrorism.

Unfortunately, part of the collateral damage of the Youtube ban is one of Pakistan's own — Mohammed Shahid Nazir, a fishmonger whose song “One Pound Fish” has gone viral on the video service, racking up over eight million views.

The Nation’s report gave a sense of how famous Mr. Nazir managed to become, despite the ban on the video-sharing site in his home country: “Around 250 people, including local politicians met him at the airport, showering him with rose petals and chanting ‘Long Live One Pound Fish!’ while TV networks interrupted coverage of the fifth anniversary of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination to show his return live.”

Of course, that's the danger of blocking or taking down content viewed as dangerous, blasphemous, heretical or just plain infringing — very often, legitimate, non-dangerous, non-offensive content gets caught in the sticky webs of overreaching entities.

I suppose the government has to be grateful that this past weekend's up-and-down action managed to leave the rest of the internet intact. It has to be tough living down a surreptitious Youtube blockade that manages to kill your own country's internet service while blocking the Youtube connection of a handful of unrelated (except by ISP) countries. 

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Companies: google, youtube

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Comments on “Pakistan Briefly Raises Youtube Banhammer; Reinstates It Three Minutes Later”

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Gee says:

Unfortunately, part of the collateral damage of the Youtube ban is one of Pakistan’s own — Mohammed Shahid Nazir, a fishmonger whose song “One Pound Fish” has gone viral on the video service, racking up over eight million views

They obviously unblocked youtube for those 3 minutes so people can get the chance to watch that 1 pound fish song.

PaulT (profile) says:

“Much to the censor’s dismay, the offending video remained just where the uploader had left it.”

That sounds like the level of intelligence of the average censor. “Shall we check it ourselves before we lift the block for everyone else and thus avoid any publicity for problems?”. “Nah, it’ll be OK, just lift it”.

“One Pound Fish”

Uuurgh… I just got that thing out of my head after the New Year party crowd kept singing it “ironically”… thanks a lot Tim 🙁

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, filters do not work when they are designed by Pakistani software engineers who test their filtering system by enabling a site for an entire country and then try to verify that the filters they configured are working properly, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work for anyone else.

I believe this is referred to as Kcinsam’s Law.

jameshogg says:

The internet is of course revolutionary, but beware...

These oppressive governments do not seem to understand the concept of proxies, do they?

Every computer connected to the internet can effectively act as a proxy. Even if you blocked all the proxies in the world, somebody could just ask a friend living outside the country to reroute the traffic through the friend’s PC (it would not take much work to set up).

Then you would have to have ISPs check every packet that goes via their exits – good luck doing that in the face of encryption.

There are three things about the internet that are inevitably going to be standard throughout the world: the “piss in the swimming pool” principle, encryption and anonymity. Countries like China are going to learn this eventually. The Great Firewall can only temporarily prolong the inevitable.

The only real way for the government to “manage” the internet is to crush it completely. That is why you see Libya and Syria panic by shutting off their ISPs in tense moments. North Korea took the smart move of never connecting to the internet – they instinctively knew that mass inter-connectivity was a bad thing for them right from the start.

And do you know what North Korea’s internet piracy rate is? 0%. China’s rate is 80%. Therefore we know that a) no internet whatsoever is how you get your low level of piracy and b) there is a rough correlation between government control of the internet and high piracy rates as well as low rates which is contradictory yet somewhat explainable… and in China’s case that is amplified by its free trade restrictions that cut off people buying media legitimately (just like as we all know it is invariably a bad thing to limit YouTube content by country – the piracy skyrockets).

However, it must be remembered that cyber utopians do not learn from history. Otherwise they would not be utopians. The internet is not going to solve all of humanity’s problems. Governments still have clever ways of being able to use the internet to its advantages such as crowd-sourcing the identities of dissidents using their own fascist supporters amongst the population. China for example can give the illusion to most of its citizens that it is not oppressive by allowing some criticism of its policies to go ahead if it is safe for them (this is the difference between total control and effective control), therefore taming and calming any revolutionary backlash.

Equally, it is possible for the Chinese government to set up traps by making supposedly anti-government websites of their own, encouraging revolution, organising when and where opposition meetings are going to take place, then having the secret police bust them all unexpectedly (we all know O’Brien and the Inner Party had set up the Brotherhood themselves in 1984 as bait for dissidents – O’Brien just rubbed it in even more by not admitting it and encouraging us to come to our own conclusions).

Also, the internet can encourage a sense of “armchair liberalism” where steam is let off on blogs but nothing is actually done in the real world. Oppressive governments may indeed have nothing to fear from angry bloggers if they still have the monopoly of guns and violence.

We also cannot forget that it would be a slow and painful death for an Iraqi family if they were caught with a satellite dish under Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian and genocidal rule. It just goes to show that there are situations where technological advances cannot stop fascism. We cannot ignore this.

This RSA Animate video is also a very good indicator of the sort of thing I mean:

In short, the internet will only be as good as the politics of the people who use it. It (sometimes) does not matter how much internet access you give to people… if you cannot give them morality and rationality, we are still going to be a stupid and overrated species.

Copyright law, for instance, is positively harmful as it gives lobbyists a dangerous degree of power to pressure democratic governments into giving up liberty for security… which as we all know gives you neither. This has to be resisted, otherwise we will have to learn the hard way. SOPA, always remember, would have given corporations the ability to crush any website on a whim without a trial. The fact that it has got to this stage is terrifying. This is what a culture that is too faithful in copyright can do. It must be abolished in order to show that artists can prosper without it and to make it very unlucky for society to go back to the way things were. Crowdfunding websites are the real revolutionaries here.

JJ Joseph (profile) says:

Banning everything

Why am I not surprised when the Muslims shut down the internet? They’ve been doing this sort of thing for centuries, first banning deviant speech, then Christian & Jewish scrolls, then books, then satellite dishes. I’m surprised that they don’t ban Dodge Caravans because they have a cross on the grill. No wonder Muslim nations are so poor and backward!

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