Islamabad: Pakistan's new IT minister has warned that Google could be blocked in the country if the company fails to remove blasphemous and objectionable material from its video-sharing website YouTube.
Minister of State for IT and Telecommunication Anusha Rahman Khan made the remarks on her first day in office yesterday while talking about Pakistan's efforts to end a nine-month ban on YouTube for hosting clips from the controversial film "Innocence of Muslims".
Google, the parent company of YouTube, had rejected requests from the previous Pakistan People's Party-led government to remove the objectionable material and Khan said she hoped the company would listen to the new PML-N government.
"It all depends on our negotiation clout. If they persist with their stance, we can block Google in Pakistan as a last resort as there are many alternative search engines available on the web," Khan was quoted as saying by The News daily.
"Innocence Of Muslims" triggered violent protests by right wing groups across Pakistan and the PPP-led government itself sanctioned a day of protests in September last year. Twenty-three people were killed and property worth billions of rupees was destroyed during these protests.
The PML-N government has listed as one of its priorities the restoration of YouTube with filters to screen blasphemous and pornographic content.
Pakistan banned YouTube on September 17 last year.
The ban was lifted for a few hours in December before being reinstated following protests from right wing groups.
Soon after the ban, the IT Ministry issued a key policy directive to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block all blasphemous and pornographic materials on the internet by installing a filtration system.
Information Technology Secretary Zafar Iqbal blames PTA for failing to devise a filtration system but the new Minister of State for IT said she did not buy the argument and believes the ministry could have done better during the past nine months.
"PTA is just an enforcement body. Our ministry is responsible for policy decisions, so it's our job to ensure reopening of YouTube as soon as possible with thorough screening of objectionable material. I will immediately start work on it after a presentation by ministry officials on Monday," Khan said.
The government will go all out to ensure that a proper filtration system is in place to reopen YouTube.
"We will pump in extra money if needed and do whatever is in our capacity to bring YouTube back to Pakistan without compromising our ethical values," she said.
She said she will request Google to remove objectionable material from YouTube or at least ensure that access to it is blocked in Pakistan.
Khan made it clear that the ban on YouTube will not be removed without ensuring the "blockade of objectionable material".
She said, "We cannot face the embarrassment of opening the website and closing it again after protests. We have to ensure that proper filtration system is in place before we open the website."
IT experts say Pakistan has had little success in blocking blasphemous and other objectionable material on YouTube as the country does not have an agreement on content with Google.
First Published: Sunday, June 9, 2013, 12:22