I’m not sure how many of us are aware of the Net Freedom Case or more popularly, the Youtube case that’s ongoing in Pakistan. The case has been filed by Bytes for All, a non-profit organization that works towards securing digital rights and freedom of expression in Pakistan. The focus of the organization is on protection of human rights with respect to how they can be violated by the use of technology.
In January 2013, Bytes for All filed a petition against the ban on Youtube, stating that the act was unconstitutional and against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The background to this is that the Supreme Court had only ordered blocking of the film Innocence of Muslims and not the entire Youtube platform. However, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) did not have the capability to block the film alone, so they ended up blocking the entire Youtube website. According to recent developments, the last hearing did not conclude fruitfully and has been postponed for a later date. PTA’s successive actions pertaining to blacklisting of sites and the use of network filtering technology (“Netsweeper“) have also finally landed Pakistan in the list of “Enemies of the Internet“.
What does having no access to Youtube mean? Well for one, Youtube is considered to be a mammoth source of valuable information. From tutorials, to DIY videos, to interesting content on a plethora of subjects, not only does it serve as a platform for individual learning and entertainment but it has grown into an essential, powerful marketing tool for businesses.
People are using Youtube to project themselves. They’ve used the platform successfully by creating video blogging channels through which they’ve ended up earning sizable incomes. They’ve used the platform as a stepping stone to setup lucrative, constructive businesses (remember Khan Academy). Businesses are using it to connect with their customers and building their brands. We cannot disregard the fact that where Youtube has been used positively it also contains a lot of content that’s distasteful/harmful. But then again, doesn’t everything in the world have a positive and negative side to it? Isn’t it up to us to differentiate right from wrong and keep ourselves away from the latter? Does banning an entire medium, because of one questionable piece of content, justify depriving people of all the useful material hosted on that medium? Isn’t the blanket ban driving more curiosity among people towards the objectionable content instead of away from it? With what right can we call ourselves a democratic state when we resort to such short-sighted and distasteful moral policing?
Instead of focusing all our energy towards negative elements, it’s high time we started concentrating on the positives. It’s the only way we’ll be able to change from a backward country to a progressive nation.