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Pakistan Lifts 3-year Ban On YouTube

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Pakistan authorities have lifted a three-year ban on Youtube, after the government blocked the video-sharing website because of content that officials described as blasphemous.

Pakistan banned access to YouTube in September 2012, after an anti-Islam film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ was uploaded to the site, sparking violent protests across major cities in the Muslim-majority country of 190 million people.

“We’re glad that YouTube is now accessible in Pakistan so viewers can watch and share videos, as well as take advantage of the vibrant and growing global online video community,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.

Under the new version of YouTube, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) can ask for access to offending material to be blocked, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom said in a statement.

“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 ministry said.

The government could ask Google to block access to offending material for users within the country and the ministry said Google and YouTube would “accordingly restrict access” for Pakistani users.

Google, however, said that it would not automatically remove material without conducting a review, and that the vetting process was the same as in other jurisdictions with local YouTube versions. Government requests to remove content would be publicly reported, it added.

“We have clear community guidelines and, when videos violate those rules, we remove them,’ Google said in a statement.

“Where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we may restrict access to it after a thorough review.”

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in Pakistan, where angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam.

In 2010 Pakistan shut down Facebook for nearly two weeks over its hosting of allegedly blasphemous pages. Blackberry, last year was set to exit the country in responds to demands to monitor its data, but it cancelled the withdrawal after those demands were dropped. It continues to restrict thousands of online links.