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YouTube launches in Pakistan even though it’s still banned there

Atif Aslam, Tajdar-e-Haram, Coke Studio Season 8, Episode 1.
YouTube has launched a localized Urdu version of the site in Pakistan but there’s a catch: viewers who currently live in Pakistan aren’t able to access it. YouTube has been banned in Pakistan since 2012 when the world’s largest online video platform refused to take down a controversial American-made video which disrespected the Prophet Mohammed. The ban could be overturned soon, though, according to reports.

Google is hoping that the new site,, will convince the country’s Supreme Court to lift the ban. “We are in a very near-term sort of thing,” said an unnamed source to AFP (via Billboard). “The roadblocks have been removed.”

If the country reconsiders the ban, it would require Google to comply with removal requests. “The understanding is that on the localised version offensive and blasphemous content could be blocked by Google on the government’s request,” said a telecommunications authority in the country to the AFP.

While it sounds like Google is willing to compromise with the country, a spokesman for the tech giant explained that it would continue to review requests before taking them down. “Government requests to remove content will continue to be tracked and included in our Transparency Report.”

Pakistan’s block of the video streamer in 2012 occurred after Google refused to take down an anti-Islam video called “Innocence of Muslims” which sparked deadly protests. Since that time, many locals have used proxies to access the site.

In addition to Pakistan, YouTube also launched country-specific home pages featuring local content in Nepal and Sri Lanka this week. The video streamer highlighted popular local content in the three countries in a blog post Tuesday. In the section on Pakistan, YouTube’s Asia Pacific director Gautam Anand said that Pakistanis “love YouTube’s diverse music offerings” like the Coke Studio series (above) which captures live performances of artists from across the country.

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