Monday,18 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1396, (31 May - 6 June 2018)
Monday,18 February, 2019
Issue 1396, (31 May - 6 June 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Banning YouTube

YouTube will be blocked in Egypt for a month, reports Reem Leila

Banning YouTube
Banning YouTube

On 26 May the Supreme Administrative Court ruled to block video-sharing website YouTube for one month.

The case began in 2013 when lawyer Mohamed Hamed Salem filed a suit calling for YouTube to be blocked on the grounds it hosted a video, Innocence of Muslims, which denigrated the Prophet Mohamed. A lower court ruled in favour of Salem’s petition but the ruling was appealed by the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).

This week’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed. Yet as Al-Ahram Weekly went to press on Tuesday afternoon, YouTube was still accessible from Egypt.

“It should take less than a month to enforce the block. An official copy of the ruling must now be sent by the petitioner to the Ministry of Telecommunications before it can be implemented,” says lawyer Reda Hazaa.

In its appeal against the initial ruling the NTRA argued it was technically difficult to block the video-sharing site. But Egypt has the tools to implement the month-long ban, says information security expert Walid Haggag.

According to Alexa Internet, YouTube was the second-most popular website worldwide in 2017. It has more than a billion users who together watch one billion hours of video a day. Iran, China and North Korea permanently block the site. Ten other countries have temporarily banned access for religious or political reasons.

Haggag, who agrees with the court decision to block YouTube because “disrespecting the prophet is unacceptable”, says implementation of the decision will result in financial losses for those advertising on the site.

Telecommunications expert Hossam Saleh says a total block of YouTube is impossible since the site can continue to be accessed via proxy servers and VPN.

“Once Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites have been allowed it is technically impossible to completely block them,” he said.

Saleh argues the one-month block is pointless. It will not change the fact the offensive video is posted on YouTube and will continue to be available when the month-long ban on the site is over.

Countries have blocked YouTube for limited periods of time during periods of unrest, the run-up to elections or in response to upcoming political anniversaries. In some cases only access to specific content is blocked. In others YouTube has agreed to remove or limit access to specific videos in order to restore its services.

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