Pakistan declared that it has removed its three-year ban on Google-owned YouTube following the launch of the site's local version in the Muslim-dominated country. With this new version, the government will be able to remove and block any material it deems offensive.
The YouTube ban took effect in September 2012 as a result of violent protests across major cities in Pakistan, when the film "Innocence of Muslims," which was believed to have anti-Islam sentiments, was uploaded to the video-sharing site.
"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," said the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom.
The ministry added that Google created a sort of an online Web process where it can receive requests for denial of access to any offensive material. These requests can be made directly by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to Google. Upon receiving a request, Google will block access to the offensive material to YouTube users in Pakistan.
Pakistan regards blasphemy as a highly sensitive topic. People who are charged with blasphemy can be sentenced to death. So far, there are no records that showed a death sentence had been issued by the government.
The film "Innocence of Muslims" showed the prophet Muhammad as a buffoon, which is considered a mockery and therefore blasphemous. While the White House had instructed YouTube to remove the clip on its site, the company defended its proliferation on the site while citing reasons that are based on the ideals of free speech.
Within the last couple of years, Pakistan had been blocking thousands of Web pages that the government finds to be undesirable. Some activists claim that this practice of blocking sites is intended to suppress liberal or anti-government voices.
YouTube, as well as parent company Google, also had a litany of protesting countries over the company's reluctance to pull down material that is deemed offensive or not in conformity with a country's set of rules and regulations. Apart from Pakistan, the video-sharing site had also been banned in Turkey, North Korea, China, and Iran, among others.
Google said that the process of pulling down an offensive material will have to follow a vetting process after a review of the material has been conducted. It added that these requests by the government to remove an offensive content will have to be reported in public. Google also receives numerous takedown requests from copyright holders.
"We have clear community guidelines, and when videos violate those rules, we remove them," Google said in a statement.