Censorship of YouTube

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Video-sharing platform YouTube is the second-most popular website as of 2016, according to Alexa Internet.[1] Censorship of it has occurred and continues to occur in many countries throughout the world, though the website can typically still be accessed through VPN or proxy servers.


YouTube blocking occurs for a variety of reasons including:[2]

  • Limiting public exposure to content that may ignite social or political unrest;
  • Preventing criticism of a ruler, government, government officials, religion, or religious leaders;
  • Violations of national laws, including:
  • Preventing access to videos judged to be inappropriate for youth;
  • Businesses, schools, government agencies, and other private institutions often block social media sites, including YouTube, due to bandwidth limitations and the site’s inevitable potential for distraction.[2]

In some countries YouTube is completely blocked, either through a long term standing ban or for more limited periods of time such as during periods of unrest, the run-up to an election, or in response to upcoming political anniversaries. In other countries access to the website as a whole remains open, but access to specific videos is blocked. In cases where the entire site is banned due to one particular video, YouTube will often agree to remove or limit access to that video in order to restore service.[2]

As of September 2012, countries with standing national bans on YouTube include China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkmenistan. YouTube was also mostly blocked in Germany from YouTube's side due to disputes between GEMA and YouTube over royalties until they made peace in 2016.[citation needed]

YouTube's Terms of Service prohibit the posting of videos which violate copyrights or depict pornography, illegal acts, gratuitous violence, or hate speech. User-posted videos that violate such terms may be removed and replaced with a message stating: "This video is no longer available because its content violated YouTube's Terms of Service".[3][non-primary source needed]

YouTube offers an opt-in feature known as "Restricted Mode", which filters videos that may contain mature content.[4]

Advertiser-friendly content[edit]

YouTube policies restrict certain forms of content from being included in videos being monetized with advertising, including strong violence, language, sexual content, and "controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown", unless the content is "usually newsworthy or comedic and the creator's intent is to inform or entertain".[5]

In August 2016, YouTube introduced a new system to notify users of violations of the "advertiser-friendly content" rules, and allow them to appeal. Following its introduction, many prominent YouTube users began to accuse the site of engaging in de facto censorship, arbitrarily disabling monetization on videos discussing various topics such as skin care, politics, and LGBT history. Philip DeFranco argued that not being able to earn money from a video was "censorship by a different name", while Vlogbrothers similarly pointed out that YouTube had flagged both "Zaatari: thoughts from a refugee camp" and "Vegetables that look like penises" (although the flagging on the former was eventually overturned).[5] The hashtag "#YouTubeIsOverParty" was prominently used on Twitter as a means of discussing the controversy. A YouTube spokesperson stated that "while our policy of demonetizing videos due to advertiser-friendly concerns hasn't changed, we've recently improved the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication to our creators."[6][7][8]

In March 2017, a number of major advertisers and prominent companies began to pull their advertising campaigns from YouTube, over concerns that their ads were appearing on objectionable and/or extremist content, in what the YouTube community began referring to as a 'boycott'.[9][10] YouTube personality PewDiePie described these boycotts as an "adpocalypse", noting that his video revenue had fallen to the point that he was generating more revenue from YouTube Red subscription profit sharing (which is divided based on views by subscribers) than advertising.[11] On April 6, 2017, YouTube announced planned changes to its Partner Program, restricting new membership to vetted channels with a total of at least 10,000 video views. YouTube stated that the changes were made in order to "ensure revenue only flows to creators who are playing by the rules".[12]

Censorship of LGBT content in Restricted Mode[edit]

In March 2017, the "Restricted Mode" feature was criticized by YouTube's LGBT community for unfairly filtering videos that discuss issues of human sexuality and sexual and gender identity, even when there is no explicit references to sexual intercourse or otherwise inappropriate content for children.[13][5][14] Rapper Mykki Blanco told The Guardian that such restrictions are used to make LGBT vloggers feel "policed and demeaned" and "sends a clear homophobic message that the fact that my video displays unapologetic queer imagery means it's slapped with an 'age restriction', while other cis, overly sexualised heteronormative work" remain uncensored.[14] Musicians Tegan and Sara similarly argued that LGBT people "shouldn't be restricted", after acknowledging that the mode had censored several of their music videos.[15]

Critics have stressed that LGBT content should not be seen as inherently sexual or inappropriate for children. The availability of this content to LGBT youth, such as information about coming out, is vitally important. A study by GLSEN Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that LGBT youth are "five times as likely as non-LGBT youth to have searched information online on sexuality," and that "81% of LGBT youth search for health and medical information online."[16] YouTube later admitted that a technical error on Restricted Mode wrongfully impacted "hundreds of thousands" LGBT-related videos.[17]

Countries where access to YouTube is currently blocked[edit]

China China[edit]

YouTube was first blocked in China for several months from October 15, 2007[18] to March 22, 2009.[19]

It was blocked again from March 24, 2009, although a Foreign Ministry spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny whether YouTube had been blocked.[20] Since then, YouTube is not accessible from China.[21] However, YouTube can still be accessed in Hong Kong and Macau. It could also be accessed in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

Iran Iran[edit]

On certain Iranian ISPs, such as Pars Online or AsiaTak, YouTube is unblocked; however, YouTube is blocked on the Telecommunications Company of Iran, a state-owned provider which is also the most widely used ISP in Iran. After the 2009 presidential election, the block was lifted to warm down the youth in the country,[22] but in 2012, Iran reinstated the block of YouTube and Google after the trailer to the film Innocence of Muslims was released.[23] On January 17, 2016, some users reported that the website was unblocked, although the site was blocked again on January 20.[24]

North Korea North Korea[edit]

YouTube is blocked in North Korea because of the country's laws regarding the Internet, and its accessibility. It has been fully blocked since April 2016; anyone who tries to access it, even with authorization, will be subject to punishment.[25]

History of YouTube Censorship in other countries[edit]

Afghanistan Afghanistan[edit]

On September 12, 2012, YouTube was blocked in Afghanistan in response to the controversial film about Muhammad, Innocence of Muslims, which the country considered blasphemous.[26] YouTube was unblocked in Afghanistan on December 1, 2012.[27]

Armenia Armenia[edit]

Following the disputed February 2008 presidential elections, the Armenian government blocked Internet users access to YouTube for a month. The Armenian opposition had used the website to publicize video of police and military brutality carried out against anti-government protestors.[28][29]

Bangladesh Bangladesh[edit]

In March 2009, YouTube was blocked in Bangladesh after a recording of a meeting between the prime minister and army officers was posted revealing anger by the military on how the government was handling a mutiny by border guards in Dhaka.[30] The block was lifted on March 21.[31]

On September 17, 2012, YouTube was banned for the second time following the controversies regarding the promotional videos for Innocence of Muslims.[32]

On June 5, 2013, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission lifted the ban.[33]

Brazil Brazil[edit]

YouTube was sued by Brazilian model and MTV VJ Daniella Cicarelli, (the ex-fiancée of footballer Ronaldo) and her boyfriend on the grounds that the site makes available video footage made by a paparazzo in which she and her boyfriend are having sex on a Spanish beach. The video was not explicit. The lawsuit asked that YouTube be blocked in Brazil until all copies of the video are removed. On Saturday, January 6, 2007, a legal injunction ordered that filters be put in place to prevent users in Brazil from accessing the website.[34]

The effectiveness of the measure was questioned, since the video is available not only on YouTube, but also on other sites as part of an Internet phenomenon. On Tuesday, January 9, 2007, the same court overturned its previous decision, allowing the filters to be removed. The video footage itself remained banned and was to be removed from the website.[35]

In June 2007, a judge ordered Cicarelli and her boyfriend to pay all court and lawyer costs, as well as R$10,000 (roughly US $3,203) to the three defendants, YouTube, Globo, and iG, citing a lack of good faith in pushing the privacy case when their actions took place in public.[36]


YouTube has been intermittently blocked in Eritrea since 2011 by some ISPs, although a spokesperson for Freedom House speculated this was due to bandwidth considerations.[37]

Gabon Gabon[edit]

A few days after the restriction of internet access when most people in Gabon can't surf on social medias and App Store/Play Store (especially to download VPN apps), YouTube was blocked since September 8, 2016 by the government; the reason may be due to government preservation and media control in response to violence after the post electoral results, although it is accessible by a lot of means.[citation needed]

Germany Germany[edit]

Live streaming

On 23 November 2016[38][39] German Kommission für Zulassung und Aufsicht (Commission for Authorization and Supervision) which is formed by representatives of German public broadcast stations, required PietSmiet & Co., a German Let's Player operating an own YouTube Channel to get a German broadcast license until 30 April 2017,[40] otherwise to be recognized as an illegal pirate radio for live streaming, even when no radio spectrum use is included. Some YouTubers, even non profit, might fail at the expensive fee for applying a license.[41] On 30 April 2017, the streaming channel PietSmietTV went offline. The channel PietSmiet remained online due not providing 24/7 streaming. The channel was mentioned in a requirement of a license.[42]

Blocking of YouTube videos

The blocking of YouTube videos in Germany is part of an ongoing dispute between the video sharing platform YouTube and the Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights – GEMA), a performance rights organisation in Germany.

According to a German court in Hamburg, Google's subsidiary YouTube can be held liable for damages when it hosts copyrighted videos without the copyright holder's permission.[43] As a result, music videos for major label artists on YouTube, as well as many videos containing background music, have been unavailable in Germany since the end of March 2009 after the previous agreement had expired and negotiations for a new license agreement were stopped. On October 31, 2016, YouTube and GEMA reached an agreement over royalties, ending a seven-year-long battle of blocking music videos in Germany.[44]

Indonesia Indonesia[edit]

On April 1, 2008, Indonesian information minister Muhammad Nuh, asked YouTube to remove Fitna, a controversial film made by Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders. The government allowed two days for the removal of the video or YouTube would be blocked in the country. On April 4, Nuh asked all Internet service providers to block access to YouTube.[45][46] On April 5, YouTube was blocked for testing by one ISP.[47] Finally, on April 8 YouTube, along with MySpace, Metacafe, RapidShare, Multiply, Liveleak, and Fitna's official site, were blocked in Indonesia.[48] YouTube's ban was lifted on April 10.[49] There may still have been some blocking in May 2008 according to local inhabitants.

Libya Libya[edit]

On January 24, 2010, Libya permanently blocked YouTube after it featured videos of demonstrations in the Libyan city of Benghazi by families of detainees who were killed in Abu Salim prison in 1996, as well as videos of family members of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi at parties. The ban was condemned by Human Rights Watch.[50] In November 2011, after the Libyan Civil War, YouTube was once again allowed in Libya,[51] but did not launch a local version of the site until early 2015.

Malaysia Malaysia[edit]

In May 2013, videos critical of the Malaysian government were blocked despite the government's promises not to censor the internet. Analysis of the network traffic shows that the ISP were scanning the headers of the users and actively blocking requests to the YouTube video according to the video key.[52][53]

Morocco Morocco[edit]

On May 25, 2007, the state-owned Maroc Telecom blocked all access to YouTube.[54] There were no reasons given as to why YouTube was blocked, but speculations are that it may have been due to videos posted by the pro-separatist Polisario, Western Sahara's independence movement, or due to videos criticizing King Mohammed VI. The government ban did not concern the other two private Internet providers, Wana and Méditel. YouTube became accessible again on May 30, 2007, after Maroc Telecom unofficially announced that the denied access to the website was a mere "technical glitch".[55]


In February 22, 2008, YouTube was blocked in India following a decision taken by the India Telecommunication Authority because of the number of "non-Islamic objectionable videos".[56] One report specifically named Fitna, a controversial Dutch film, as the basis for the block.[57] India ordered its ISPs to block access to "for containing blasphemous web content/movies".[58][59] Blasphemy law in India calls for life imprisonment or death. This followed increasing unrest in India by over the reprinting of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons which depict satirical criticism of Islam.[58] Router misconfiguration by one Indian ISP on February 24, 2008 effectively blocked YouTube access worldwide for several hours.[60] On February 26, 2008, the ban was lifted after the website had removed the objectionable content from its servers at the request of the government.[61]


It has been suggested by some Pakistani web sites, blogs, and by electoral process watchdog groups that the block was imposed largely to distract viewers from videos alleging vote-rigging by the ruling MQM party in the February 2008 general elections.[62][63] Allegations of suppressing vote-rigging videos by the Musharraf administration were also leveled by Pakistani bloggers, newspapers, media, and Pakistani anti-Musharraf opposition parties.[64][65]

On May 20, 2010, on Everybody Draw Mohammed Day Pakistan again blocked the website in a bid to contain "blasphemous" material.[66] The ban was lifted on May 27, 2010, after the website removed the objectionable content from its servers at the request of the government. However, individual videos deemed offensive to Muslims that are posted on YouTube will continue to be blocked.[67][68]

On September 17, 2012, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) ordered access to YouTube blocked, after the website did not remove the trailer of Innocence of Muslims, a film insulting Islam and eventually resulting in a ban due to YouTube's non compliance.[69]

Bytes for All, a Pakistani non-profit organization, filed a constitutional challenge to the ban through their counsel Yasser Latif Hamdani in the Lahore High Court. This is an ongoing case and is commonly known as the YouTube case.[70]

On December 11, 2013, it was announced by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority that they have convinced Google's management to offer a local "youtube.com.pk" version to Pakistan, as it will be easy for the local authorities to remove "objectionable" material from a local version as compared to the global version of YouTube. However, it will be offered only after the Pakistani government fulfills some of the undisclosed requirements.[71]

During the ban a video was released called "Kholo BC" by rappers Adil Omar and Ali Gul Pir opposing the ban.[72] The video went viral and thousands of people supported that the ban is due to political interest.[71]

On April 21, 2014, Pakistan's Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights approved a resolution to lift the ban on YouTube.[73]

On 6 May 2014, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution to lift the ban,[74] but as of 2 August 2014 it was still in effect.[75] [needs update]. The ban was lifted due to technical glitch on December 6, 2015 according to ISPs in Pakistan.[76]

As of January 18, 2016, the ban has been lifted officially, as YouTube launched a local version of the site for Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Russia Russia[edit]

The video claiming responsibility for the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings, which claimed 800,000 viewers in four days, was removed, along with all videos of Doku Umarov. Additionally, it turned out that over 300 videos from the Kavkaz Center were removed for having "inappropriate content." Russia was blamed for having pressured YouTube to take such measures.[77]

On July 28, 2010, a court in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur ordered a local ISP to block access to youtube.com, web.archive.org, and several other websites offering books for downloads, citing extremist materials as the reason.[78] The order was not enforced and was later reversed.[79][80] YouTube is now available in Russia.

On July 19, 2017, a popular video-blogger Dmitry Ivanov (nick-named Kamikadze D.) stated that the Russian office of YouTube Corporation collaborates with the Kremlin, removing opposition's videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZwAVsAgsLQ

Syria Syria[edit]

YouTube was blocked in Syria until early in 2011, when blocking was relaxed briefly before being reinstated following the start of the Syrian civil war in March 2011.[81]

Sudan Sudan[edit]

The Sudanese authorities blocked YouTube on April 21, 2010, following the 2010 presidential election, and also blocked YouTube's owner Google. The block was in response to a YouTube video showing National Electoral Commission workers in official uniforms and a child in the Hamashkoreib region filling out voting strips and putting them into ballot boxes, with one of them expressing relief that the voting period had been extended for them to finish their work. Sudan had previously blocked YouTube temporarily in 2008 for unknown reasons.[82]

On September 17, 2012, YouTube was banned again by National Telecommunication Corporation for not removing Innocence of Muslims, a controversial anti-Islamic film. However, YouTube is now accessible in Sudan.[citation needed]

South Sudan South Sudan[edit]

YouTube was blocked in South Sudan because of controversy relating to Innocence of Muslims, a controversial anti-Islamic film.[83]

Tajikistan Tajikistan[edit]

In July 2012, the Tajik authorities blocked YouTube in response to uploaded videos showing protests against militant clashes. Eight days later, the ban was lifted.[citation needed]

In the same year, the Tajik government blocked the website a second time because of offensive videos of the president Emomali Rakhmon.[84]

In 2013, Tajikistan blocked YouTube for a third time because of a video that shows the president Emomali Rakhmon dancing and singing out of tune at his son's wedding party in 2007.[85]

Thailand Thailand[edit]

In 2006, Thailand blocked access to YouTube for users with Thai IP addresses. Thai authorities identified 20 offensive videos and demanded that Google remove them before it would allow unblocking of all YouTube content.[86]

During the week of March 8, 2007, YouTube was blocked in Thailand.[87] Many bloggers believed the reason for the blocking was a posted video of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's speech on CNN. The government did not confirm or provide reasons for the ban. YouTube became accessible again on March 10, 2007.

On the night of April 3, 2007, YouTube was again blocked in Thailand.[88] The government cited a video on the site that it called "insulting" to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.[89][90] However, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology claimed that it would unblock YouTube in a few days, after websites containing references to this video are blocked instead of the entire website.[91][92] Communications Minister Sitthichai Pokai-udom said, "When they decide to withdraw the clip, we will withdraw the ban."[93] Shortly after this incident the Internet technology blog Mashable was blocked from Thailand over the reporting of the YouTube clips in question.[94] YouTube was unblocked on August 30, 2007, after YouTube reportedly agreed to block videos deemed offensive by Thai authorities.[95]

On September 21, 2007, Thai authorities announced they were seeking a court order to block videos that had recently appeared on YouTube accusing Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda of attempting to manipulate the royal succession to make himself Thailand's king.[96]

Turkey Turkey[edit]

This error message was shown when attempting to access YouTube in Turkey between May 5, 2008 to October 30, 2010.

Turkish courts have ordered blocks on access to the YouTube website.[97] This first occurred when Türk Telekom blocked the site in compliance with decision 2007/384 issued by the Istanbul 1st Criminal Court of Peace (Sulh Ceza Mahkeme) on March 6, 2007. The court decision was based on videos insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in an escalation of what the Turkish media referred to as a "virtual war" of insults between Greek, Armenian and Turkish YouTube members.[86][98][99][100] YouTube was sued for "insulting Turkishness"[101] and access to the site was suspended pending the removal of the video. YouTube lawyers sent proof of the video's removal to the Istanbul public prosecutor and access was restored on March 9, 2007.[102] However, other videos similarly deemed insulting were repeatedly posted, and several staggered bans followed, issued by different courts:

  • the Sivas 2nd Criminal Court of Peace on September 18, 2007 and again (by decision 2008/11) on January 16, 2008;
  • the Ankara 12th Criminal Court of Peace on January 17, 2008 (decision 2008/55);[103]
  • the Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace on March 12, 2008 (decision 2008/251);
  • the Ankara 11th Criminal Court of Peace on April 24, 2008 (decision 2008/468).
  • the Ankara 5th Criminal Court of Peace on April 30, 2008 (decision 2008/599);
  • again, the Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace on May 5, 2008 (decision 2008/402);
  • again, the Ankara 11th Criminal Court of Peace on June 6, 2008 (decision 2008/624).
  • again, based on "administrative measures" without court order following corruption scandal, relating several governmental officials including Prime Minister Erdogan on March 27, 2014

The block in accordance with court decision 2008/468 of the Ankara 11th Criminal Court of Peace issued on April 24, 2008, which cited that YouTube had not acquired a certificate of authorisation in Turkey, was not implemented by Türk Telekom until May 5, 2008.

Although YouTube was officially banned in Turkey, the website was still accessible by modifying connection parameters to use alternative DNS servers, and it was the eighth most popular website in Turkey according to Alexa records.[104] Responding to criticisms of the courts' bans, in November 2008 the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated "I do access the site. Go ahead and do the same."[105]

In June 2010, Turkey's president Abdullah Gül used his Twitter account to express disapproval of the country's blocking of YouTube, which also affected access from Turkey to many Google services. Gül said he had instructed officials to find legal ways of allowing access.[106]

Turkey lifted the ban on October 30, 2010.[107] In November 2010, a video of the Turkish politician Deniz Baykal caused the site to be blocked again briefly, and the site was threatened with a new shutdown if it did not remove the video.[108][109]

On March 27, 2014, Turkey banned YouTube again. This time, they did so mere hours after a video was posted there claiming to depict Turkey's foreign minister, spy chief and a top general discussing scenarios that could lead to their country's military attacking jihadist militants in Syria.[110] The ban was ordered lifted by a series of court rulings, starting April 9, 2014, but Turkey defied the court orders and kept access to YouTube blocked.[111][112] On 29 May the Constitutional Court of Turkey ruled that the block violated the constitutional right to freedom of expression and ordered that YouTube access be restored.[113]

As of the morning of June 1, 2014, access to YouTube remained blocked in Turkey.[114] But during the day, access appeared to have been restored.

On 6 April 2015, YouTube was again briefly blocked, alongside Facebook and Twitter, due to the widespread posting of the a slained prosecutor during a hostage crisis.[115]

On 23 December 2016 YouTube again became briefly inaccessible in Turkey according to reports validated by internet monitoring group Turkey Blocks after footage that allegedly showed the immolation of Turkish soldiers by jihadists was shared on the site.[116][117] The site is now accessible again as of the 25th of December.

Turkmenistan Turkmenistan[edit]

On December 25, 2009, for security reasons, YouTube was blocked in Turkmenistan by the only ISP in the country, Turkmentelecom. Other websites, such as LiveJournal were also blocked.[118]

United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates[edit]

The UAE's telecom regulatory authority blocked YouTube in August 2006. This ban was later lifted[when?], and YouTube is now available all across the United Arab Emirates, but with the Etisalat ISP in the UAE citing "presence of adult content on the website which is clearly against the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the UAE".[119]


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