Over the past week, anti-American protests spread across North Africa and the Middle East in response to an American-made anti-Islam video that mocks the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a lecherous fraud. As a result, both Google and various countries have moved toward either restricting access to the controversial video or YouTube as a whole.
After the initial eruption of violence in Libya and in Egypt on September 11, Google announced that it would not remove the video from YouTube, as the video “clearly” complied with YouTube’s terms of service. Google has held fast to this decision, despite the White House’s request for a reevaluation. Nevertheless, Google has voluntarily placed a temporary block on the video in Libya and Egypt, citing the “very difficult situation” in those areas. Moreover, Google has permanently blocked the video in India and Indonesia in response to formal government requests due to violations of local law. Google describes these practices as “entirely consistent with principles we first laid out in 2007.”
So far, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan have acted directly to block the video. Afghan authorities say that their block of YouTube, which began on September 13, will continue until the video is removed. Authorities in Afghanistan have cited as their main concern the video’s potential to inflame violence. One Afghani ISP explained that it preemptively blocked YouTube “to avoid the blood of innocents spilling over. All it takes is one Mullah watching that video, and then he’ll preach about it later on, causing chaos.”
On September 14, Pakistan blocked all particular instances of the video, stating that it would not tolerate such a “defamatory” and “abominable” treatment of the Prophet. As of September 17, Pakistan blocked YouTube entirely.
On September 17, Sudanese Twitter users began to report that YouTube had been blocked. Their reports have been corroborated by the Sudan Tribune, a Paris-based news site, though no official Sudanese media outlet has yet reported the blockage.
Outrage over the video has spread to over twenty countries, and protesters have attacked American, British, and German embassies in Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, and India. Tensions remain high, and the deadly provocation of this video may inspire governments to step up online filtering and thus pose a sustained challenge to freedom of expression.
Let Herdict know whether YouTube is accessible in your country, particularly if you live in a region that has threatened to block it. Reports can be submitted via the Herdict homepage, the Herdict add-on, Twitter, or email.