Innocence of a People
The people of Pakistan have been excluded from the global YouTube community for some time now and there are no signs of the ban being lifted in the near future.
YouTube is no stranger to bans and Pakistan is not the only country in the world to have pulled the plug on this popular video-sharing website. In Turkey, the website was banned on account of a video that allegedly insulted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. The ban lasted for two years before it was lifted in October 2010.. Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, China, the UAE, Malaysia and Indonesia are some of the other countries that have banned YouTube at one point or the other.
In Pakistan, YouTube has been blocked since September 2012. The ban came about in response to a video that was offensive to the Muslim faith, specifically to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Infuriated by the disrespect shown to the Prophet in clips captured from an obscure film, Innocence of
Muslims (which is itself surrounded in controversy and speculation), protestors took to the streets in Islamabad and other parts of Pakistan. When the video was not removed from the site, Pakistani authorities blocked YouTube itself.
What’s more, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, a federal minister at that time, announced a $100,000 bounty on the filmmaker’s head!
Enforcing the ban meant that Pakistan lost access to YouTube. However, desperation gave way to innovation; many a determined user found loopholes that exist in the form of proxies and virtual private networks to get around the ban. Nevertheless, those who are not so tech-savvy have had to do without the website for over a year now.
Letters have been written by aggrieved musicians beseeching the powers that be to revoke the ban. Letters from irate YouTube buffs have been carried by many newspapers. Organizations that uphold internet freedom have also chimed in. An advocacy group, Bytes for All has even filed a lawsuit against the ban.
A number of people have begged and pleaded with the Pakistan government to restore YouTube. They have also ranted and railed against government officials for turning a deaf ear to their requests.
The fact remains that Pakistanis have been excluded from the larger YouTube community for some time now and there are no signs of the ban being lifted in the immediate future.
The ban has led to some beneficial side-effects. In the absence of YouTube, other previously little known websites have generated more traffic and garnered interest among Pakistani users. This is, anyway, small consolation compared to the vast damage done by the persistent inaccessibility of YouTube.
YouTube is an international phenomenon for users around the globe. Don’t know how to do something? Need a quick tutorial to help you set up a new gadget? Looking for an old movie trailer? Want to watch your favorite music video? Searching for tips from a pro? YouTube it, dictates modern wisdom.
Uploaded in 2005 and procured by Goggle shortly after, the videosharing website has since become ubiquitous in the digital world. An estimated one billion users visit YouTube every month. Additionally, data suggests that more than six billion hours of videos are watched on this website each month.
It is easy to see why YouTube is as big as it is. The website is designed to enable users to post, share and view videos on a range of subjects. Users can kill many idle hours watching the antics of pets, infants, celebrities and ordinary people as captured on camera and uploaded to the site by anyone from anywhere in the world.
But YouTube is more than a catalogue of cute cat and baby videos. It is an educational tool that contains tutorials on subjects ranging from video-editing techniques to piano and math lessons. Bodies of research support the claim that YouTube has established itself as a valuable learning tool that has been integrated into the classroom experience by teachers around the world. Furthermore, the website covers a wide gamut of howto videos pertaining to culinary skills, performing art, scientific experiments and household tasks.
You can also watch popular TV shows, music videos and trailers on the website. Significantly, YouTube has launched careers in music. It has helped struggling artists go from relative anonymity to generating thousands of clicks, comments and
a solid fan base. Other video-sharing sites such as Vimeo, which have sprung up since, have yet to reach the level of popularity YouTube enjoys.
Users may also comment on YouTube posts. It follows that YouTube
Banning a website or a service deprives millions of users of the opportunity to make perfectly reasonable, morally acceptable and absolutely inoffensive use of it.
comments have long ranged from the inane to the outrageously unkind and a fair share of the billion visitors who frequent the site each month are likely to end up offended. Occasionally, a video ignites mass censure and upsets enough people to get the entire website blocked in a part of the world. In each case, such bans have been announced in response to content on the site that offends political or religious sensibilities of a particular people.
In part, squabbles about what constitutes appropriate web content go with the territory. The web pits together cultures, ideas, sensitivities, belief systems and moral frameworks from across the globe. Demonstrations of celebrated freedoms in one part of the world are admonished as blatant disrespect and provocation in another part of the world. Pakistan has responded to this clash of perspectives with a one-size-fits-all solution: the dreaded ban.
Banning a website or a service deprives millions of users of the opportunity to make perfectly reasonable, morally acceptable and absolutely inoffensive use of it. It bars millions of students and teachers from accessing lessons on a myriad of subjects. It makes the Pakistani people pay the price for the unfortunate actions committed by another.
Based on reviews of Innocence of Muslims from critics around the world, it appears to be a lousy excuse for a film with little to recommend itself. Indeed, the film’s greatest achievement could questionably be that it has succeeded in depriving the world’s sixth most populous country of a vital learning and sharing resource.