Facebook, Youtube & Pakistan : Towards An Islamic Internet?

Millions of internet users in Pakistan are now prevented from accessing Youtube, Facebook and according to various sources, other websites like Wikipedia or Flickr because of a blanket ban imposed by the country's court because of what the government considers to be blasphemous images of the Prophet Muhammad.

This is not the first time that such a step is taken by an Asian country; Pakistan once blocked Google's Blogger.com and inadvertently brought down Youtube worldwide for several hours after it decided to block access to the site.

However, the fact that it came two weeks exactly after ICANN, the organisation in charge of domain names worldwide, released the first non-latin domain names is significant.

All three countries in the first batch are Islamic countries, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and one may wonder whether the constant clash between non-Western governments and mostly-US based internet companies may not spawn a segregated Internet.

Muslim-based ventures are nothing new; there are Sharia-compliant banks, Islamic dating websites and even an Islamic-oriented search engine called Imhalal.com (Halal meaning proper, legitimate pure or untainted).

The recent events could also fuel the rise of social networking website such as Muslimsocial, Naseeb or Muxlim as Facebook members of Islamic faith leave the websites in drove.

Facebook data shows that there are 2.36 million users that like in Pakistan, 2.27 million in Saudi Arabia, 1.34 million in Nigeria and a staggering 24.6 million in Indonesia.

Given the fact that Facebook has nearly 500 million users worldwide, the loss of the first three Islamic countries shouldn't be much of an issue for the world's largest social networking website.

Interestingly, Facebook and Youtube are in the top five most popular websites in Pakistan according to Alexa. It is therefore not surprising when one of the biggest Pakistani ISP says that the ban could slash total internet traffic in the country by a quarter.

Ultimately, like for the Chinese government, it would serve the regimes in many Islamic countries to launch their own version of the internet with cleaned, approved content; will their population give up though?