Anti-Islam film prompts more YouTube blackouts

Posted by Emma Woollacott

YouTube is extending its block on the trailer for the anti-Islam film The Innocence of Muslims to more countries, as international outrage increases.

It's now preventing access in Saudi Arabia and Sudan, as well as Libya, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and India. It says it's complying with local laws. It has, though, rejected a request from the White House to pull the film worldwide.

The Saudi ban was introduced after the country's King Abdullah said the whole site would otherwise be blocked. He also called for citizens to report any links to the film.

"This is considered a duty imposed by our true religion on every Muslim, necessitating the prevention of any blaspheming reports to our Prophet (peace be upon him) and to our true religion," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Sudan has blocked access to YouTube altogether.

"We sent a letter to Google on Saturday requesting to remove the film that insults Prophet Mohammed from YouTube but when we didn't get any response we tried blocking the film," the country's telecoms head, Azz el-Din Kamel, told Reuters.

"Since blocking the film faced some difficulties we were forced to block the entire YouTube website. This freeze will stay in place until the film gets blocked from the site."

Pakistan and Bangladesh have done the same. And a Russian court is currently considering whether the film should be classed as 'extremist', and therefore illegal. If it is, the whole of YouTube could be blocked in the country.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is critical of some of YouTube's actions.

"Whereas the later blockages — in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and by the time of publication, perhaps elsewhere — were determined by a local court in each respective country, the decision to block the video in Egypt and Libya was determined solely by a company in the United States with presumably no local expertise," says the group's  Jillian York in a blog post.

"Given the freedoms that Egyptians and Libyans risked their lives for during the uprisings of 2011, it is a shame that a Western company would serve as arbiter of what they are and are not capable of viewing online."