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February 15, 2013

Egypt's Decision to Ban YouTube Deemed 'Impossible'

By Rory Lidstone, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Egypt's administrative court recently ordered the country's ministries of communication and investment to block YouTube (News - Alert) for a month due to the fact that the popular video streaming site became host to an amateur video that apparently disrespects the Prophet Mohammad. However, the country's National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority appealed this decision on Thursday, saying the ruling can't be enforced.

The YouTube video in question, entitled "Innocence of Muslims," is a short video clip made in California billed as a film trailer that depicts the Prophet as both a fool and a sexual deviant. It's no surprise, then, that there has been backlash as the majority of Muslims view any portrayal of the Prophet Mohammad as blasphemous.

Talks between ministry officials and the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority led to a statement issued in which the NTRA said it is technically impossible to shut down just YouTube itself in Egypt, as such a move would also block use of Google (News - Alert) search. The statement added that only the United States has the capability to shut YouTube down.

"Blocking YouTube would affect the search engine of Google, of which Egypt is the second biggest user in the Middle East," said the statement. The NTRA concluded that shutting down Google would result in losses to the economy amounting to tens of millions of U.S. dollars, while affecting thousands of jobs.

The only viable move left for authorities was to block "Innocence of Muslims" itself, which had already been done.

Google released a statement of its own in response, pointing out that it has a simple mechanism in place for legal authorities to request that certain content be blocked.

These kinds of issues aren't entirely uncommon with social sites like YouTube, but more often deal with privacy concerns. For example, Facebook has spent a lot of time in German courtrooms over the past couple of years due to the country's strict privacy laws.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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