Pakistan’s attempts to block access to YouTube have been blamed for a near global blackout of the site on Sunday. Google, the owner of YouTube, blamed the outage on “erroneous internet protocols”, sourced in Pakistan

BBC News has learned that the nearly two-hour long blackout was almost certainly connected to Pakistan Telecom and internet service provider PCCW.

The country ordered ISPs to block the video-sharing website because of content deemed offensive to Islam.

The BBC News website’s technology editor, Darren Waters, says that to block Pakistan’s citizens from accessing YouTube it is believed Pakistan Telecom “hijacked” the web server address of the popular video site.

Those details were then passed on to the country’s internet service providers so that anyone in Pakistan attempting to go to YouTube was instead re-directed to a different address.

But the details of the “hijack” were leaked out into the wider internet from PCCW and as a result YouTube was mistakenly blocked by internet service providers around the world.

The block on the servers was lifted once PCCW had been told of the issue by engineers at YouTube.

A statement from Google said that the problems lasted for “about two hours”.

“Traffic to YouTube was routed according to erroneous internet protocols, and many users around the world could not access our site,” it said.

“We have determined that the source of these events was a network in Pakistan. We are investigating and working with others in the internet community to prevent this from happening again.”

PCCW said it was aware of the occurrence and was “reviewing the event with the appropriate internal and external parties.”

A leading net professional told BBC News: “This was probably a simple mistake by an engineer at Pakistan Telecom. There’s nothing to suggest this was malicious.”

IP hijacking involves taking over a web site’s unique address by corrupting the internet’s routing tables, which direct the flow of data around the world.

Cause of ban

Reports said Pakistan made the move because YouTube content included Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that have outraged many.

But one report said a trailer for a forthcoming film by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, which portrays Islam in a negative light, was behind the ban.

They [Pakistan’s telecommunications authority] asked us to ban it immediately… and the order says the ban will continue until further notice,” said Wahaj-us-Siraj, convener of the Association of Pakistan Internet Service Providers.

The government decision has caused uproar in Pakistan, according to Wahaj-us-Siraj:

“Users are quite upset. They’re screaming at ISPs which can’t do anything.

“The government has valid reason for that, but they have to find a better way of doing it. If we continue blocking popular websites, people will stop using the internet.”

Other countries that have temporarily blocked access to YouTube include Turkey and Thailand.

Courtesy BBC NEWS

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