“Pakistan to scan Google, Yahoo and other sites for blasphemous content”

According to a Friday revelation by a Pakistani official, the country will soon start monitoring seven bigwig sites – Google, Yahoo, YouTube, MSN, Amazon, Bing, and Hotmail –, as a part of its latest attempts to block anti-Islamic links and content. The sites will be scanned by officials, who will block the links that they consider offensive to Muslims.

In addition, seventeen lesser-known sites are also being blocked outright for alleged blasphemous content.

The latest move of monitoring sites for blasphemy comes after the ban that Pakistan imposed on access to Facebook, following the social networking site’s announcement of a “blasphemous” contest in which it asked participants to draw caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

Revealing that both the Facebook ban and the Friday-announced move of monitoring sites were in response to court orders, Khurram Mehran, a spokesman for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, said: “If any particular link with offensive content appears on these websites, the link shall be blocked immediately without disturbing the main website.”

Meanwhile, reacting to Pakistan’s Friday announcement, which Yahoo called disappointing, Google’s spokesman Scott Rubin said that the company will keep an eye on the manner in which Pakistan’s new policies affect access to its services – which include not only the world’s most popular search engine, but also the most extensively used video site, YouTube.


Pakistan court wants Google, Yahoo, YouTube blocked

LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) – A Pakistani court has ordered the authorities to block access to nine websites including Google, Yahoo and YouTube for allegedly offending Muslims with blasphemous material.

Judge Mazhar Iqbal ordered Pakistan’s Telecommunications Authority to block the websites due to “material against the fundamental principals of Islam and its preaching,” according to a copy of the judgement obtained by AFP.

Pakistan shut off Facebook for nearly two weeks last month in a storm of controversy about a competition to draw the Prophet Mohammadand has restricted access to hundreds of online links because of blasphemy.

Iqbal announced a short version of the order in the eastern city of Bahawalpur on Tuesday and released a written detailed order on Wednesday, lawyer Latif ur-Rehman who brought the petition for the ban, told AFP.

But while the PTA quickly implemented the earlier ban againstFacebook in May, regulators told AFP on Thursday that they had yet to receive the latest order.

“We have not yet received any directives from the ministry of information technology. The ministry is the decision-making authority,”Khurram Mehran, a PTA spokesman, told AFP.

The ministry was not immediately reachable for comment.

Iqbal called on the PTA and information technology ministry to submit detailed reports to the court next Monday.

Retired civil servant Siddique Mohammad had petitioned the court through Rehman for the ban on nine websites — Google, Yahoo, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail, YouTube, Islam Exposed, In The Name of Allah and Bing.

A spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan warned that the order could strangle Internet access for millions.

“If implemented the decision will choke Internet users. It will seriously impact millions of Internet users in Pakistan who use search engines for email, education, business and other productive purposes,” said Wahaj-us-Siraj.

“Courts are not a competent jurisdiction to handle technical issues. The issue should have been handled by the PTA,” he said.

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and the row sparked comparison withprotests across the Muslim world at the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers in 2006.

When a Facebook user decided to organise an “Everyone Draw Mohammed Day” competition to promote “freedom of expression”, it sparked a major backlash among Islamic activists in the South Asian country of 170 million.