- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

YouTube is now back online in Pakistan, just days after the country’s crackdown on the video-sharing site caused outages around the globe.

A spokeswoman for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said yesterday that the agency had lifted the restrictions on the Google Inc.-owned video hub after a “blasphemous” clip featuring Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is highly critical of Islam, had been removed, according to the Associated Press. Although videos with Mr. Wilders are still on the site, the one in question is no longer visible, the AP reported.

This isn’t the first time that Pakistan’s efforts at censoring the Web have had widespread and apparently unintended consequences.

The government since early 2006 has blocked 12 Web sites that displayed controversial cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Rather than individually block offending blogs, censors disabled access to the entire Blogspot.com domain, according to Don’t Block the Blog, a group of Pakistani Internet freedom advocates.

One year later, the PTA accidentally blocked access to millions of popular Web sites including Google.com, Download.com, Microsoft.com, Gmail.com and Yahoo.com among others, the group said. The fumbled filtering attempt went on for four days before it was corrected.

According to the AP report, the PTA was unapologetic for any “technical hitches” stemming from its order that the nation’s 70 Internet service providers to block YouTube. The blackout occurred after a Hong Kong-based data carrier began routing Web traffic to YouTube through Pakistan.

YouTube has been blocked by myriad countries at one time or another, including Brazil, Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Waiting to buy

The head of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. yesterday said the company is still waiting for its purchase of XM Satellite Radio Inc. to be approved but said the company is “optimistic” the deal will go through.

The acquisition, announced one year ago this month, requires approvals from the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.

“Unfortunately, we have not received our approval from the DOJ or the FCC,” Chief Executive Officer Mel Karmazin said on an earnings call for Sirius yesterday. “We are optimistic that we will hear favorable information from them in the near future.”

DirecTV stake

Speaking of regulatory approval, the FCC this week signed off on Liberty Media Corp.’s purchase of News Corp.’s stake in satellite provider DirecTV Group Inc.

The deal makes Liberty the largest shareholder of DirecTV while returning the Englewood, Colo., company’s shares of News Corp. back to the New York media giant.

The FCC did attach some conditions, however, to ensure that the deal was in the public interest. The company must end common ownership of Liberty cable systems in Puerto Rico and DirecTV operations in the country.

Channel Surfing runs Wednesdays. E-mail krowland@washingtontimes.com.

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