YouTube ban

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IT’S been two years since the ban, and everyone seems to have forgotten. Those who know how continue accessing YouTube using proxy servers.

Those who don’t know how have simply moved on with life, using other video-sharing websites as a substitute. In the middle, at some point that nobody cares to remember, the site was briefly restored, then taken off again.

Little trace of this website seems to be left in our lives now, except for a collective sigh of resignation with which we have come to terms with the fact that arbitrarily imposed internet censorship is yet another fact of life that we must learn to live with.

If this was only about YouTube, it would be nothing more than a sad story.

The site is not entirely absent from our lives, as is evidenced by the fact that daily talk shows from local TV channels continue being uploaded on it, as well as clips from news coverage. Clearly people have found ways to get around the closure.

The same technology which gives us the means with which to block sites gives us the tools to get around the blockages put up by government.

The absurdity of the whole affair is compounded by the hypocrisy. We have a Freedom of Information Act, for instance, which allowed the net freedoms activist group, Bolo Bhi, to access the documents that detail the mechanism through which the government determines which sites will be blocked and which ones won’t.

The document shows that the decision is made by a committee comprised of six government officials.

And the same document tells us that this committee has no record of ever having met, eight years after it was constituted, nor does a publicly disclosed takedown procedure exist.

So who decides? Based on what criteria? Are the whims of the telecom minister, Anusha Rahman, all that stand between citizens and their constitutional right to free access of public information?

This is not just about the YouTube ban; from time to time other websites too have unobtrusively been made inaccessible from Pakistan, some to be reinstated, but uncounted others not.

Net freedoms are as important in our day and age as the right to protest in public places. It would be a travesty for our constitutional freedoms if these freedoms are bartered away with nothing but a sigh of resignation, and the activation of a proxy server.


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