Egypt court orders YouTube block over 'anti-Islam' film

An Egyptian court has ordered the suspension of YouTube over the controversial Innocence of Muslims trailer.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
youtube muhammad movie trailer court order ban suspension

A court based in Cairo, Egypt, has ordered a month-long ban on video streaming service Google for hosting "anti-Islam" film Innocence of Muslims.

The Associated Press reports that Judge Hassouna Tawfiq called the video "offensive to Islam," as well as the Prophet Muhammad while ordering the suspension.

The trailer, a 14-minute video, portrays Muhammad as stupid, a fraud and a sexual deviant who approves of sexual child abuse. Any portrayal of Muhammad is considered blasphemous for many Muslims, and it is no wonder the trailer enraged the devout -- however, that does not necessarily mean that there is any legal reason to remove the footage from YouTube.

Owned by parent company Google, YouTube's 30-day suspension can be appealed, and may not be fully enforced. A Google Spokesperson told the AP that the firm was yet to receive any formal notification of the court's decision.

The court's ruling may not be part of a wider crackdown on free expression, and arguably may simply come down to one over-zealous judge. Amr Gharbeia, civil liberties director at the Egyptian Institute for Personal Rights, told The Guardian:

"People will find ways around the ban. The courts are not aware of how the internet works. They are using the same measures that they would use against newspapers and broadcasters. It's very possible that the judge is acting on his own will and conviction and really wants to protect the people of Egypt from something evil."

Last September, the video sparked protests and unrest in a number of countries across the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt and Libya. Conservative Muslim groups stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was burned down, and the U.S. ambassador to Libya and members of staff were killed.

As a result, YouTube temporarily blocked access to the video in Egypt and Libya, but it was still accessible in other countries. According to state media MENA, by refusing to take down the video, YouTube had "insisted on broadcasting the film insulting Islam and the Prophet, disrespecting the beliefs of millions of Egyptians and disregarding the anger of all Muslims."

In response, Google said:

"We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video -- which is widely available on the web -- is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube."

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