Agence France-Presse

Egypt orders YouTube blocked over 'Innocence of Muslims' video

A screengrab from "Innocence of Muslims" YouTube trailer.
Credit: Screengrab

A court in Egypt has ordered that YouTube be blocked for a month for its refusal to take down the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video that triggered violent anti-American protests last September.

The ban also applies to any other website that "aided in the sharing" of the anti-Islam clip, according to Egypt's state-owned news site Ahram Online.

The Egyptian administrative court's verdict comes in response to a suit filed in September by Mohamed Hamed Salem, an Egyptian lawyer who demanded that YouTube be blocked until its administrators removed all anti-Islamic content.

"If we don't stop these videos, they will only appear with increasing frequency," he told Ahram Online at the time, claiming that such content incited sectarian tension and violence.

Yet it's unclear when or how the ruling will be applied. The Wall Street Journal's correspondent said YouTube was still working in Egypt on Saturday, while the Associated Press points out that Egypt hasn't enforced previous bans on "offensive" websites due to the technical difficulty and cost.

Some observers were worried by the court's decision nonetheless. The head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Bahey Al Din Hassan, told the WSJ that the ruling spoke to the growing influence of religious conservatives in Egyptian society, and was a sign that freedom of expression is under threat.

Egyptian authorities have already convicted in absentia seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and one radical American pastor for making and distributing the 'Innocence of Muslims' video. They were sentenced to death, though since all eight live outside Egypt, they cannot be made to face the penalty.

YouTube, meanwhile, agreed to oblige Egypt's laws against blasphemy by restricting local access to the clip last year, the AP said. The site refused to remove the content altogether, however.

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