YouTube blocks ‘Innocence of Muslims’ in Saudi Arabia


YouTube has restricted access to an online anti-Islam film in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, after the kingdom threatened to block the video-sharing website if access to the American-produced film was not denied.

A spokesperson from Google, which owns YouTube, said that Saudi has been the latest to join a list of countries where access to the film, which mocks Prophet Mohammed, has been denied.

“We've restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal such as Saudi Arabia, India and Indonesia as well as in Libya and Egypt given the very sensitive situations in these two countries,” the spokesperson for the Middle East North Africa region told Al Arabiya English on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia issued its ultimatum: that YouTube restrict access to the film in the kingdom or the entire YouTube website would be blocked.

“Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has ordered host companies in the kingdom to block this movie from Internet users and has also requested Google to block all YouTube links carrying the film,” a statement from the Saudi Press agency said.

“If this request is not met, CITC will take the necessary action to block the entire YouTube website.” SPA said, also quoting the Saudi telecoms as urging citizens to report any links through which the film can be viewed.

In what appeared to be a show swift action taken by Google, the spokesperson said “YouTube is available in Saudi Arabia today [Wednesday],” indicting the Saudi threat was not carried through.

The statement from the kingdom described the film as blasphemous.

“CITC underscores the importance of continuing positive reaction by citizens and expatriates who should report of any electronic links giving access to the defaming film as this is considered a duty imposed by our true religion on every Muslim, necessitating the prevention of any blaspheming reports to our Prophet (peace be upon him) and to our true religion,” the statement added.

The low-budget film “Innocence of Muslims,” incited a wave of bloody anti-American violence in cities across the Muslim world which targeted symbols of U.S. influence ranging from embassies and schools to fast food chains.

At least 30 people have died so far in unrest connected to the film in over 20 countries.

Among those killed were the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans in an attack last week on the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest religious sites, on Thursday condemned the American film but also denounced the deadly attacks in reaction to it.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh have blocked access to YouTube after the video-sharing website failed to take down the initially obscure film, believed to have been produced by a small group of extremist Christians in the United States.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen have ordered blocking access to all websites carrying the video, according to AFP news agency.

Google has denied access to the videos in Malaysia, Indonesia, Libya, Egypt and India.

And the Russian communications minister on Tuesday warned that his country could follow suit.

“It sounds like a joke, but because of this video... all of YouTube could be blocked throughout Russia,” minister Nikolai Nikiforov wrote on Twitter, about the anti-Islam film.

“If there is a court decision and YouTube does not take off the video, then access will be limited.”

A spokesman for video-sharing site YouTube, owned by internet giant Google, said in a statement on Monday that it began restricting access to clips of the privately-produced film Sunday, in line with its community guidelines.

“When videos breach those rules, we remove them. Where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we will restrict access to it after a thorough review,” he said.