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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 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 (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?

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.