Censorship of YouTube

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Censorship of YouTube, the third-most popular website in the world in 2010, 2011, and 2012 according to Alexa Internet,[1] has and continues to occur in many countries throughout the world. The website can typically still be accessed through VPN or proxy servers.


YouTube blocking occurs for a variety of reasons including:[2]

  • Limiting public exposure to content that may ignite social or political unrest;
  • Preventing criticism of a ruler, government, government officials, religion, or religious leaders;
  • Violations of national laws, including:
  • Preventing access to videos judged to be inappropriate for youth;
  • Reducing distractions at work or school; and
  • Reducing the amount of network bandwidth used.

In some countries YouTube is completely blocked, either through a long term standing ban or for more limited periods of time such as during periods of unrest, the run-up to an election, or in response to upcoming political anniversaries. In other countries access to the website as a whole remains open, but access to specific videos is blocked. In cases where the entire site is banned due to one particular video, YouTube will often agree to remove or limit access to that video in order to restore service.[2]

As of September 2012, countries with standing national bans on YouTube include China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkmenistan. YouTube is also mostly blocked in Germany from YouTube's side due to disputes between GEMA and YouTube over royalties.

YouTube's Terms of Service prohibit the posting of videos which violate copyrights or depict pornography, illegal acts, gratuitous violence, or hate speech.[3] User-posted videos that violate such terms may be removed and replaced with a message stating: "This video is no longer available because its content violated YouTube's Terms of Service".

Businesses, schools, government agencies, and other private institutions often block social media sites, including YouTube, due to bandwidth limitations and the site’s inevitable potential for distraction.[2]

Censorship history by country


On September 12, 2012 YouTube was blocked in Afghanistan in response to the controversial film about Muhammad, Innocence of Muslims, which is considered blasphemous by Muslims.[4] YouTube was unblocked in Afghanistan on December 1, 2012.[5]


Following the disputed February 2008 presidential elections, the Armenian government blocked Internet users access to YouTube for about a month. The Armenian opposition had used the website to publicize video of police and military brutality carried out against anti-government protestors.[6][7]


In March 2009, YouTube was blocked in Bangladesh after a recording of a meeting between the prime minister and army officers was posted revealing anger by the military on how the government was handling a mutiny by border guards in Dhaka.[8] The block was lifted on March 21.[9]

On September 17, 2012, YouTube was banned for the second time following the controversies regarding the promotional videos for Innocence of Muslims.[10]

On June 5, 2013, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission lifted the ban.[11]


YouTube was sued by Brazilian model and MTV VJ Daniella Cicarelli, (the ex-fiancée of footballer Ronaldo) and her boyfriend on the grounds that the site makes available video footage made by a paparazzo in which she and her boyfriend are having sex on a Spanish beach. The video was not explicit. The lawsuit asked that YouTube be blocked in Brazil until all copies of the video are removed. On Saturday, January 6, 2007, a legal injunction ordered that filters be put in place to prevent users in Brazil from accessing the website.[12]

The effectiveness of the measure was questioned, since the video is available not only on YouTube, but also on other sites as part of an Internet phenomenon. On Tuesday, January 9, 2007, the same court overturned its previous decision, allowing the filters to be removed. The video footage itself remained banned and was to be removed from the website.[13]

In June 2007, a judge ordered Cicarelli and her boyfriend to pay all court and lawyer costs, as well as R$10,000 (roughly US $3,203) to the three defendants, YouTube, Globo, and iG, citing a lack of good faith in pushing the privacy case when their actions took place in public.[14]


YouTube was first blocked in China for several months from October 15, 2007[15] to March 22, 2008.[16]

It was blocked again from March 24, 2009, although a Foreign Ministry spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny whether YouTube had been blocked.[17] Since then, YouTube is not accessible from China.[18]


Main article: Internet censorship and surveillance in Eritrea

YouTube was blocked since 2011 by some of the ISPs, reason may be due to government preservation, although it is accessible by a lot of means.


The blocking of YouTube videos in Germany is part of an ongoing dispute between the video sharing platform YouTube and the Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights - GEMA), a performance rights organisation in Germany.

According to a German court in Hamburg, Google's subsidiary YouTube can be held liable for damages when it hosts copyrighted videos without the copyright holder's permission.[19] As a result, music videos for major label artists on YouTube, as well as many videos containing background music, have been unavailable in Germany since the end of March 2009 after the previous agreement had expired and negotiations for a new license agreement were stopped.


On April 1, 2008, Indonesian information minister Muhammad Nuh, asked YouTube to remove Fitna, a controversial film made by Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders. The government allowed two days for the removal of the video or YouTube would be blocked. On April 4, Nuh asked all Internet service providers to block access to YouTube.[20][21] On April 5, YouTube was blocked for testing by one ISP.[22] Finally, on April 8 YouTube, along with MySpace, Metacafe, RapidShare, Multiply, Liveleak, and Fitna's official site, were blocked in Indonesia.[23] YouTube's ban was lifted on April 10.[24] There may still have been some blocking in May 2008 according to local inhabitants.


On December 3, 2006, Iran blocked YouTube, along with several other sites, after declaring them "immoral". YouTube ban came after a video was posted online that appears to show an Iranian soap opera star having sex.[25] The block was later lifted and then reinstated after the 2009 Iranian presidential election.[26] In 2012, Iran reinstated the YouTube block, along with Google, after the trailer for the Innocence of Muslims was released on YouTube.[27] YouTube remains blocked in Iran.[28]


On January 24, 2010, Libya permanently blocked YouTube after it featured videos of demonstrations in the Libyan city of Benghazi by families of detainees who were killed in Abu Salim prison in 1996, as well as videos of family members of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi at parties. The ban was condemned by Human Rights Watch.[29] In November 2011, after the Libyan Civil War, YouTube was once again allowed in Libya.[30]


In May 2013, several YouTube videos critical of the Malaysian government were blocked despite the government's promises not to censor the internet. Analysis of the network traffic shows that the ISP were scanning the headers of the users and actively blocking requests to the YouTube video according to the video key.[31][32]


On May 25, 2007, the state-owned Maroc Telecom blocked all access to YouTube.[33] There were no reasons given as to why YouTube was blocked, but speculations are that it may have been due to videos posted by the pro-separatist Polisario, Western Sahara's independence movement, or due to videos criticizing King Mohammed VI. The government ban did not concern the other two private Internet providers, Wana and Méditel. YouTube became accessible again on May 30, 2007, after Maroc Telecom unofficially announced that the denied access to the website was a mere "technical glitch".[34]

 North Korea

YouTube is blocked in North Korea because of the country's laws regarding the Internet, and its accessibility. It is fully blocked since April 2016; anyone who tries to access it, even with authorization, will be subject to punishment.[35]


In February 22, 2008, YouTube was blocked in Pakistan following a decision taken by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority because of the number of "non-Islamic objectionable videos".[36] One report specifically named Fitna, a controversial Dutch film, as the basis for the block.[37] Pakistan, an Islamic republic, ordered its ISPs to block access to "for containing blasphemous web content/movies".[38][39] Blasphemy law in Pakistan calls for life imprisonment or death. This followed increasing unrest in Pakistan by over the reprinting of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons which depict satirical criticism of Islam.[38] Router misconfiguration by one Pakistani ISP on February 24, 2008 effectively blocked YouTube access worldwide for several hours.[40] On February 26, 2008, the ban was lifted after the website had removed the objectionable content from its servers at the request of the government.[41]

It has been suggested by some Pakistani web sites, blogs, and by electoral process watchdog groups that the block was imposed largely to distract viewers from videos alleging vote-rigging by the ruling MQM party in the February 2008 general elections.[36][42] Allegations of suppressing vote-rigging videos by the Musharraf administration were also leveled by Pakistani bloggers, newspapers, media, and Pakistani anti-Musharraf opposition parties.[43][44]

On May 20, 2010, on Everybody Draw Mohammed Day Pakistan again blocked the website in a bid to contain "blasphemous" material.[45] The ban was lifted on May 27, 2010, after the website removed the objectionable content from its servers at the request of the government. However, individual videos deemed offensive to Muslims that are posted on YouTube will continue to be blocked.[46][47]

On September 17, 2012, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) ordered access to YouTube blocked, after the website did not remove the trailer of Sam Bacile's Innocence of Muslims, a film insulting Islam and eventually resulting in a ban due to YouTube's non compliance.[48]

Bytes for All, a Pakistani non-profit organization, filed a constitutional challenge to the ban through their counsel Yasser Latif Hamdani in the Lahore High Court. This is an ongoing case and is commonly known as the YouTube case.[49]

On December 11, 2013, it was announced by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority that they have convinced Google's management to offer a local "youtube.com.pk" version to Pakistan, as it will be easy for the local authorities to remove "objectionable" material from a local version as compared to the global version of YouTube. However, it will be offered only after the Pakistani government fulfills some of the undisclosed requirements.[50]

During the ban a video was released called "Kholo BC" by rappers Adil Omar and Ali Gul Pir opposing the ban.[51] The video went viral and thousands of people supported that the ban is due to political interest.[50]

On April 21, 2014, Pakistan's Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights approved a resolution to lift the ban on YouTube.[52]

On 6 May 2014, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution to lift the ban,[53] but as of 2 August 2014 it was still in effect.[54] [dated info]. The ban was lifted due to technical glitch on December 6, 2015 according to ISPs in Pakistan.[55]

As of January 18, 2016, the ban has been lifted officially, as YouTube launched a local version of the site for Pakistan.


The video claiming responsibility for the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings, which claimed 800,000 viewers in four days, was removed, along with all videos of Doku Umarov. Additionally, it turned out that over 300 videos from the Kavkaz Center were removed for having "inappropriate content." Russia was blamed for having pressured YouTube to take such measures.[56]

On July 28, 2010, a court in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur ordered a local ISP to block access to youtube.com, web.archive.org, and several other websites offering books for downloads, citing extremist materials as the reason.[57] The order was not enforced and was later reversed.[58][59]


YouTube was blocked in Syria until early in 2011, when blocking was relaxed briefly before being reinstated following the start of the Syrian civil war in March 2011.[60]


The Sudanese authorities blocked YouTube on April 21, 2010, following the recent presidential elections, and also blocked YouTube's owner Google. The block was in response to a YouTube video showing National Electoral Commission workers in official uniforms and a child in the Hamashkoreib region filling out voting strips and putting them into ballot boxes, with one of them expressing relief that the voting period had been extended for them to finish their work. Sudan had previously blocked YouTube temporarily in 2008 for unknown reasons.[61]

On September 17, 2012, YouTube was banned again by National Telecommunication Corporation for not removing Sam Bacile's Innocence of Muslims, a controversial anti-Islamic film. Until the film is removed off of YouTube, the site will still be blocked in Sudan.

 South Sudan

YouTube is blocked in South Sudan because of controversy relating to Sam Bacile's Innocence of Muslims, a controversial anti-Islamic film.[62]


In July 2012, the Tajik authorities blocked YouTube response to uploaded videos showing protests against militant clashes. Eight days later, the ban was lifted.[citation needed]

In the same year, the Tajik government blocked the website a second time because of offensive videos of the president Emomali Rakhmon.[63]

In 2013, Tajikistan blocked YouTube for a third time because of a video that shows the president Emomali Rakhmon dancing and singing out of tune at his son's wedding party in 2007.[64]


In 2006, Thailand blocked access to YouTube for users with Thai IP addresses. Thai authorities identified 20 offensive videos and demanded that Google remove them before it would allow unblocking of all YouTube content.[65]

During the week of March 8, 2007, YouTube was blocked in Thailand.[66] Many bloggers believed the reason for the blocking was a posted video of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's speech on CNN. The government did not confirm or provide reasons for the ban. YouTube became accessible again on March 10, 2007.

On the night of April 3, 2007, YouTube was again blocked in Thailand.[67] The government cited a video on the site that it called "insulting" to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.[68][69] However, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology claimed that it would unblock YouTube in a few days, after websites containing references to this video are blocked instead of the entire website.[70][71] Communications Minister Sitthichai Pokai-udom said, "When they decide to withdraw the clip, we will withdraw the ban."[72] Shortly after this incident the Internet technology blog Mashable was blocked from Thailand over the reporting of the YouTube clips in question.[73] YouTube was unblocked on August 30, 2007, after YouTube reportedly agreed to block videos deemed offensive by Thai authorities.[74]

On September 21, 2007, Thai authorities announced they were seeking a court order to block videos that had recently appeared on YouTube accusing Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda of attempting to manipulate the royal succession to make himself Thailand's king.[75]


This error message was shown when attempting to access YouTube in Turkey between May 5, 2008 to October 30, 2010.

Turkish courts have ordered blocks on access to the YouTube website.[76] This first occurred when Türk Telekom blocked the site in compliance with decision 2007/384 issued by the Istanbul 1st Criminal Court of Peace (Sulh Ceza Mahkeme) on March 6, 2007. The court decision was based on videos insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in an escalation of what the Turkish media referred to as a "virtual war" of insults between Greek, Armenian and Turkish YouTube members.[65][77][78][79] YouTube was sued for "insulting Turkishness"[80] and access to the site was suspended pending the removal of the video. YouTube lawyers sent proof of the video's removal to the Istanbul public prosecutor and access was restored on March 9, 2007.[81] However, other videos similarly deemed insulting were repeatedly posted, and several staggered bans followed, issued by different courts:

  • the Sivas 2nd Criminal Court of Peace on September 18, 2007 and again (by decision 2008/11) on January 16, 2008;
  • the Ankara 12th Criminal Court of Peace on January 17, 2008 (decision 2008/55);[82]
  • the Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace on March 12, 2008 (decision 2008/251);
  • the Ankara 11th Criminal Court of Peace on April 24, 2008 (decision 2008/468).
  • the Ankara 5th Criminal Court of Peace on April 30, 2008 (decision 2008/599);
  • again, the Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace on May 5, 2008 (decision 2008/402);
  • again, the Ankara 11th Criminal Court of Peace on June 6, 2008 (decision 2008/624).
  • again, based on "administrative measures" without court order following corruption scandal, relating several governmental officials including Prime Minister Erdogan on March 27, 2014

The block in accordance with court decision 2008/468 of the Ankara 11th Criminal Court of Peace issued on April 24, 2008, which cited that YouTube had not acquired a certificate of authorisation in Turkey, was not implemented by Türk Telekom until May 5, 2008.

Although YouTube was officially banned in Turkey, the website was still accessible by modifying connection parameters to use alternative DNS servers, and it was the eighth most popular website in Turkey according to Alexa records.[83] Responding to criticisms of the courts' bans, in November 2008 the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated "I do access the site. Go ahead and do the same."[84]

In June 2010, Turkey's president Abdullah Gül used his Twitter account to express disapproval of the country's blocking of YouTube, which also affected access from Turkey to many Google services. Gül said he had instructed officials to find legal ways of allowing access.[85]

Turkey lifted the ban on October 30, 2010.[86] In November 2010, a video of the Turkish politician Deniz Baykal caused the site to be blocked again briefly, and the site was threatened with a new shutdown if it did not remove the video.[87][88]

On March 27, 2014, Turkey banned YouTube again. This time, they did so mere hours after a video was posted there claiming to depict Turkey's foreign minister, spy chief and a top general discussing scenarios that could lead to their country's military attacking jihadist militants in Syria.[89] The ban was ordered lifted by a series of court rulings, starting April 9, 2014, but Turkey defied the court orders and kept access to YouTube blocked.[90][91] On 29 May the Constitutional Court of Turkey ruled that the block violated the constitutional right to freedom of expression and ordered that YouTube access be restored.[92]

As of the morning of June 1, 2014, access to YouTube remained blocked in Turkey.[93] But during the day, access appeared to have been restored.

On 6 April 2015, YouTube was again briefly blocked, alongside Facebook and Twitter, due to the widespread posting of the a slained prosecutor during a hostage crisis.[94]


On December 25, 2009, for unknown reasons, YouTube was blocked in Turkmenistan by the only ISP, Turkmentelecom. Other websites, such as LiveJournal were also blocked.[95]

 United Arab Emirates

The UAE's telecom regulatory authority blocked YouTube in August 2006. This ban was later lifted[when?], and YouTube is now available all across the United Arab Emirates, but with the Etisalat ISP in the UAE citing "presence of adult content on the website which is clearly against the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the UAE".[96]


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