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An estimated 2-minute read

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal get their own version of YouTube

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In a significant development, Google announced yesterday that it has launched a localized version of its immensely popular video-sharing website YouTube in Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. With this launch, users in these countries will access country-specific homepages. Moreover the architecture of the site’s pages (and videos) will be tailored such that the YouTube experience will include the “most relevant videos” of a user’s country. It may be noted here that YouTube is already available in Nepali, Sinhalese, and Urdu.

The case of Pakistan is especially interesting because of YouTube’s frequent run-ins with the country’s administration over carrying blasphemous content. In fact, YouTube was banned in Pakistan in 2012 after the infamous film “Innocence of Muslims”, which was uploaded on and accessible through its site, created widespread public furore. The Supreme Court of Pakistan at that time insisted on the continuation of the ban till such time as a method was found to block all blasphemous content. Even though YouTube is now localized for Pakistani content, reports indicate that the ban on the accessibility to the website continues to persist. However, at least one report stated that users in different parts of Pakistan found “that the site was accessible under ‘https’ protocol.”

BytesforAll, an NGO based in Pakistan, had filed a case before the Lahore High Court in 2013, challenging the government’s blocking of YouTube. The case is still being heard. It may be worthy to recall here that just last month, the European Court of Human Rights in Cengiz v. Turkey had found Turkey’s blocking of YouTube to be violative of the right to receive and impart information. Unfortunately, the ECtHR judgment is available only in French. However, the official press release to the judgment stated that the Court

observed that YouTube was a single platform which enabled information of specific interest, particularly on political and social matters, to be broadcast. It was therefore an important source of communication and the blocking order precluded access to specific information which it was not possible to access by other means. Moreover, the platform permitted the emergence of citizen journalism which could impart political information not conveyed by traditional media.

Moving forward, it would be interesting to note how the Pakistani government reacts to YouTube’s move of localized domain, language, and content; whether it decides to unblock YouTube or continues its ban. Moreover, the battle in the YouTube case in the Lahore High Court may take a decisive turn, with the Court more open to trusting a localised website, catering to the needs and legal regulations of Pakistan.

Original author: Nakul Nayak
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