Censorship of YouTube

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World map showing the status of YouTube blocking

Video-sharing platform YouTube is the second-most popular website as of 2017, according to Alexa Internet.[1] According to the company's press page, YouTube has more than one billion users and each day those users watch more than one billion hours of video.[2] 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.

General[edit]

YouTube blocking occurs for a variety of reasons including:[3]

  • Limiting public exposure to content that may ignite social or political unrest;
  • Preventing criticism of a ruler, google, 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.[3]

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.[3]

As of September 2012, countries with standing national bans on YouTube include China, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkmenistan. Due to disputes between GEMA and YouTube over royalties, many videos featuring copyrighted songs were inaccessible in Germany. After an agreement was made between the companies in November 2016, these videos became accessible.[4][5]

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".[6][non-primary source needed]

YouTube offers an opt-in feature known as "Restricted Mode", which filters videos that may contain mature content.[7]

Countries where access to YouTube is currently blocked[edit]

China[edit]

YouTube was first blocked in China for several months from October 15, 2007[8] to March 22, 2008.[9]

It was blocked again from March 24, 2009, although a Foreign Ministry spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny whether YouTube had been blocked.[10] Since then, YouTube is not accessible from China.[11] However, YouTube can still be accessed in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. It could also be accessed in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, and specific hotels.[12] Since 2018, if the term "YouTube" was searched on Baidu, a text "According to local regulations and policies, some results cannot be shown" will be displayed. Even though YouTube is blocked under the great firewall, many Chinese media including CCTV have their official YouTube account. In spite of the ban, Alexa ranks YouTube as 11th most visited website in China.[13]

Iran[edit]

After the 2009 presidential election, the block was lifted to warm down the youth in the country,[14] but in 2012, Iran reinstated the block of YouTube after the trailer to the film Innocence of Muslims was released.[15] On January 17, 2016, some users reported that the website was unblocked, although the site was blocked again on January 20, 2016. Iran lifted the ban from Internet used in schools and universities in August 2017 for educational purposes. Some startups, television shows, celebrities and moderate politicians such as Khatami use this website. The ban is expected to be lifted in months to come.[when?][16]

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, and the North Korean government has warned that anyone who tries to access it is subject to punishment.[17]

History of YouTube censorship in other countries[edit]

Afghanistan[edit]

On September 12, 2012, YouTube was blocked in Afghanistan due to hosting the trailer to the controversial film about Muhammad, Innocence of Muslims, which the authorities considered to be blasphemous.[18] YouTube was later unblocked in Afghanistan on December 1, 2012.[19]

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 alleged police brutality against anti-government protesters.[20][21]

Bangladesh[edit]

In March 2009, YouTube was blocked in Bangladesh after a recording of an alleged 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.[22] The block was lifted on March 21.[23]

On September 17, 2012, YouTube was banned for the second time following the controversies regarding the promotional videos for Innocence of Muslims.[24] On June 5, 2013, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission lifted the ban.[25]

Brazil[edit]

In January 2007, YouTube was sued by Brazilian model and MTV VJ Daniella Cicarelli, (the ex-fiancée of soccer player Ronaldo) and her boyfriend due to the fact that the website hosted a video recorded paparazzo in which she and her boyfriend were having sexual intercourse on a Spanish beach; the video did not contain explicit content. The lawsuit asked that YouTube be blocked in Brazil until all copies of the video were 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.[26]

The effectiveness of the measure was questioned, since the video was 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.[27]

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.[28]

Eritrea[edit]

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.[29]

Finland[edit]

On November 30, 2017, most YouTube videos containing music seemed to be blocked by Finnish nonprofit performance rights organization Teosto in Finland. According to them, Google blocked the videos because they didn't have an agreement to show music videos in Finland. According to Teosto, they and Google have made a temporary agreement to show the videos in the morning of November 30. The music videos started to return to YouTube in Finland later on November 30.[30][31]

Germany[edit]

Live streaming

On November 23, 2016,[32][33] the 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 by April 30, 2017,[34] or else be regarded as an illegal pirate radio broadcaster for livestreaming, even when no radio spectrum use is included. Some YouTubers, even non profit, might fail at the expensive fee for applying a license.[35] On April 30, 2017, the livestreaming 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.[36]

Blocking of YouTube videos

The blocking of YouTube videos in Germany on copyright grounds was part of a dispute between YouTube and the Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights – GEMA), a performance rights organization 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.[37] 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.[38]

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.[39] On April 4, following YouTube's failure to remove the video, Nuh asked all Internet service providers to block access to YouTube.[40] On April 5, YouTube was briefly blocked for testing by one ISP.[41] On April 8, YouTube, along with MySpace, Metacafe, RapidShare, Multiply, LiveLeak and Fitna's official site, was blocked in Indonesia on all ISPs.[42] The blocking of YouTube was subsequently lifted on April 10.[43] There may still have been some blocking in May 2008 according to local inhabitants.

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.[44] In November 2011, after the Libyan Civil War, YouTube was once again allowed in Libya,[45] but did not launch a local version of the site until early 2015.

Malaysia[edit]

In May 2013, videos critical of the Malaysian government were blocked from YouTube in Malaysia despite the government's promises not to censor the internet. Analysis of the network traffic shows that the ISPs were scanning the headers of the users and actively blocking requests to the YouTube video according to the video key.[46][47]

Morocco[edit]

On May 25, 2007, the state-owned Maroc Telecom ISP blocked all access to YouTube.[48] Officially, no reasons were given as to why YouTube was blocked, but speculations were 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 ban did not affect the other two ISPs in the country, Wana and Méditel. The blocking of YouTube on Maroc Telecom was lifted May 30, 2007, after Maroc Telecom unofficially announced that the denied access to the website was a mere "technical glitch".[49]

Pakistan[edit]

In February 2008, the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority (PTA) blocked access to YouTube on Pakistani ISPs, allegedly because of "blasphemous" videos of conservative Dutch politician Geert Wilders. However, the PTA's block inadvertently knocked out access to YouTube worldwide for two hours on February 25, 2008.[50] Pakistan Telecom had broadcast to other ISPs in the Pacific Rim the false claim that it was the correct route for the addresses in YouTube's IP space.[51] It was suggested by some Pakistani websites, blogs, and by electoral process watchdog groups at the time 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.[52][53] Allegations of suppressing vote-rigging videos by the Musharraf administration were also leveled by Pakistani bloggers, newspapers, media, and Pakistani anti-Musharraf opposition parties.[54][55] YouTube was unblocked on February 27, 2008 after the allegedly blasphemous videos were removed.[56]

On May 20, 2010, which was Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, Pakistan again blocked the website in a bid to contain "blasphemous" material.[57] 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.[58][59]

On September 17, 2012, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) ordered access to YouTube blocked, after the website failed to remove the trailer of the controversial Innocence of Muslims, and eventually resulting in a ban due to YouTube's noncompliance.[60]

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.[61]

On December 11, 2013, it was announced by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority that they had convinced Google's management to offer a local "youtube.com.pk" version to Pakistan, as it would be easy for the local authorities to remove "objectionable" material from a local version as compared to the global version of YouTube. However, it would only be offered after the Pakistani government fulfilled some of the undisclosed requirements.[62]

During the ban a video was released called "Kholo BC" by rappers Adil Omar and Ali Gul Pir opposing the ban.[63] The video went viral and thousands of people supported that the ban is due to political interest.[62]

On April 21, 2014, Pakistan's Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights approved a resolution to lift the ban on YouTube.[64]

On May 6, 2014, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution to lift the ban,[65] but as of August 2, 2014 it was still in effect.[66] [needs update] The ban was lifted due to a technical glitch on December 6, 2015, according to ISPs in Pakistan.[67]

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

On November 25, 2017, the NetBlocks internet measurement platform and Digital Rights Foundation collected evidence of nation-wide blocking of YouTube alongside other social media services, imposed by the government in response to the violent Tehreek-e-Labaik protests.[68][69][70] The technical investigation found that many, but not all, major Pakistani fixed-line and mobile service providers implemented the YouTube restriction which was lifted by the PTA the following day when protests abated after the resignation of Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid.[71]

Russia[edit]

The video claiming responsibility for the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings, which quickly gained 800,000 views 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.[72]

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.[73] The order was not enforced and was later reversed.[74] YouTube is now available in Russia.[citation needed]

On September 4, 2017 Roskomnadzor announced their intention to delete a video released by a popular YouTube channel Nemagia in which bloggers Alexey Pskovitin and Mikhail Pecherskiy described unscrupulous business strategies by Tinkoff Bank.[citation needed]

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 appearing to show 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.[75]

On September 17, 2012, YouTube was banned again by National Telecommunication Corporation for not removing Innocence of Muslims, a controversial anti-Islamic film. However, the block was later lifted.[citation needed]

South Sudan[edit]

YouTube was blocked in South Sudan because of controversy relating to Innocence of Muslims, a controversial anti-Islamic film.[76]

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 again, this time because of videos depicting the president Emomali Rakhmon which were deemed to be offensive to the government.[77]

In 2013, Tajikistan blocked YouTube for a third time because of a video which depicts President Rakhmon dancing and singing out of tune at his son's wedding party in 2007.[78]

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.[79]

During the week of March 8, 2007, YouTube was blocked in Thailand.[80] Although no official explanation was given for the ban, many bloggers believed the reason for the blocking was a video of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's speech on CNN. YouTube was unblocked on March 10, 2007.

On the night of April 3, 2007, YouTube was again blocked in Thailand.[81] The government cited a video on the site that it called "insulting" to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.[82][83] However, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology said that it would unblock YouTube in a few days, after websites containing references to this video are blocked as opposed to the entire website.[84] Communications Minister Sitthichai Pokai-udom said, "When they decide to withdraw the clip, we will withdraw the ban."[85] Shortly after this incident the Internet technology blog Mashable was blocked from Thailand over the reporting of the YouTube clips in question.[86] YouTube was unblocked on August 30, 2007, after YouTube reportedly agreed to block videos deemed offensive by Thai authorities.[87]

On September 21, 2007, Thai authorities announced they were seeking a court order to block videos that had appeared on YouTube accusing Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda of attempting to manipulate the royal succession to make himself Thailand's king.[88]

Tunisia[edit]

YouTube was blocked in Tunisia for several years before the 2011 Tunisian Revolution.[89][90][91]

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.[92] 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.[79][93][94][95] YouTube was sued for "insulting Turkishness"[96] 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.[97] 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);[98]
  • 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 Erdoğan 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 authorization 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.[99] 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."[100]

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.[101]

Turkey lifted the ban on October 30, 2010.[102] 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.[103][104]

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.[105] 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.[106][107] 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.[108]

As of the morning of June 1, 2014, access to YouTube remained blocked in Turkey.[109] But during the day, access appeared to have been restored.

On April 6, 2015, YouTube was again briefly blocked, alongside Facebook and Twitter, due to the widespread posting of footage of a prosecutor killed during a hostage crisis.[110]

On December 23, 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.[111][112] The site is now accessible again as of December 25.

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.[113]

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".[114]

See also[edit]

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