/ 26 February 2008

YouTube points to Pakistan over access snag

Pakistani internet service providers may have inadvertently blocked the popular YouTube website across the world on the weekend when they restricted local access to the site, a telecommunications official said.

YouTube said on Monday that many users around the world could not access the site for about two hours because traffic had been routed according to erroneous internet protocols.

The source of the problem was a network in Pakistan, YouTube said in a statement.

Pakistan ordered local internet service providers to block access to the site because it was running material insulting to Islam, a Pakistani industry official said on Sunday.

A government telecommunications official said the order to restrict local access might have mistakenly affected users around the world.

”The blocking of the website within the country might have mistakenly affected its worldwide service, briefly,” said the official, who declined to be identified.

But there had been no intention to block the site worldwide, he said.

Attempts to access YouTube in Islamabad on Sunday were met with a generic error message saying the site was unavailable.

The site could be accessed by some internet users in Pakistan on Tuesday, but the telecoms official said service providers had blocked the link to the content deemed insulting to Islam.

The Pakistani Telecommunication Authority justified its order to block access in Pakistan, saying it was necessary to avoid unrest in the overwhelming Muslim country of 160-million people.

”It has the potential to cause more unrest and possible loss of life and property across the country,” the authority said in a statement on Monday, referring to the material.

Publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked widespread anger and deadly protests in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan.

Protests have been held in recent weeks in Pakistan after the republication of one of the cartoons. — Reuters