Pakistan unblocks YouTube after nearly three years

Pakistan today unblocked YouTube nearly three years after banning the popular video-sharing website for carrying a blasphemous movie, it assured the government that it would insert country-specific filters for removing objectionable content.

Several countries including Pakistan witnessed bloody riots when the website carried Innocence of Muslims in 2012, which Muslims considered as blasphemous and derogatory to their religion. The ban was lifted after the company agreed to install Pakistan specific filters and arrangements to block objectionable material through a localised version, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) spokesman Khurram Mehran told media.

"We have issued directives to all relevant people to provide access to YouTube and it is accessible now," he said. Earlier, the ministry of information technology today asked PTA to restore YouTube service within 48 hours.

The Supreme Court had earlier ordered the government to block it until measures were in place to stop blasphemous materials. PTA had submitted to the court that Google had verified that the current version of the website did not contain any known copies of the offending material and Google had made it possible for the Pakistani government to ask for the removal of objectionable videos from the website.

Free speech activists received the news with cautious optimism. They feel the details of the agreement should be made public.

"We want to know what arrangements YouTube has made to protect our right to freedom of expression while launching their localized services," Bytes for All, a group that fights for digital rights in Pakistan, told CNN.

"Both parties have been very secretive."

YouTube said, the changes did not necessarily  mean all government requests for takedowns would be automatically be met.

"We have clear community guidelines, and when videos violate those rules, we remove them," said a YouTube spokeswoman.