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We can’t block YouTube, Egypt’s telecomms authority tells the court

18 February 2013

On February 9, Egypt’s Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered that YouTube be temporarily banned in Egypt for 30 days following Google’s refusal to remove the Innocence of Muslims video from YouTube.

At the time, the judge suggested that it was a ruling on a case brought several months earlier, but gave no further details. The video, a 13-minute clip billed as a film trailer, has caused huge outrage among Muslims. It depicts Mohammad as a fool and sexual deviant. Many muslims consider any portrayal of the Prophet as blasphemous. Google, however, has said that the film and its posting on YouTube does not contradict its terms of use. Removal would thus be an unacceptable act of censorship.

Judge Tawfiq ordered the ministries of communication and investment to block YouTube, and the country’s telecommunications regulatory authority said it would abide by the order as soon as it received a copy of the verdict. “Referring to the State Council's Administrative Court ruling issued on February 9, 2013 to block YouTube for a 30 day period, the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) asserts and emphasizes its respect for the Egyptian Administrative Court rulings. In this concern, NTRA shall take the necessary measures and carry out the ruling as soon as it receives a copy of the verdict,” it said in a brief statement.

On 13 February, however, it appealed the ruling, saying that it is unenforceable. "The National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority has presented an appeal to halt implementation of the verdict," said a statement from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

The problem is that it is not technically possible to shut down YouTube without affecting Google Search. The implication, according to a statement issued after talks between ministry officials and the telecoms regulator (reported by Reuters) is more one of national economics than dragging Google Search into the YouTube order. "Blocking YouTube would affect the search engine of Google, of which Egypt is the second biggest user in the Middle East," the statement said. It went on to add that this would cause the loss of hundreds of millions of Egyptian pounds (tens of millions of dollars) to the economy and affect thousands of jobs.

All that could be done would be to block the offending video itself – which has already been done.

There is no doubt that the video has caused huge offense to many millions of muslims. The recent wave of attacks against US banks was claimed by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters, a muslim group with Iranian connections, as a direct response and protest against the film.

This article is featured in:
Internet and Network Security  •  Public Sector

 

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