Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Egypt Bans YouTube

On Saturday, an Egyptian court ordered a 30-day ban on the entire YouTube domain for the continued availability of a 13 minute video which insults the Islamic prophet Mohammed (Aljazeera 2013). The video, which caused widespread violent and nonviolent protests, culminated in protesters in Cairo scaling the walls of the US Embassy and  removing the American flag.

While the response of the Muslim population throughout the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, characterized by anti-American protests, reveals not only that the video broadly offended Islamic values, but that anti-Islamic views remain associated with the general American population, advancing anti-American views in the region.

Religious Toleration and Political Rights

Further, the newly imposed ban on YouTube, in addition to the widespread demonstrations in Cairo, reveals that the Egyptian population has yet to fully comprehend the ideal of the 'twin tolerations,'as defined by Alfred Stephen (2012), and are, in fact, far from it. The Cairo court's ruling, decided on a lawsuit which alleged the video posed a threat to Egypt's national security, argues that a threat to the Islamic religion is actually a threat to the state itself; showing that a separation between church and state does not exist. In addition, the ruling also establishes religious ideals as superior to state-given civil rights, such as freedom of speech.

Political Motivations and Public Reactions

While this fact is not surprising given the contextual rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, it will be interesting to observe the response of Egyptian citizens to the new ruling, especially given the six-month delay since the video was first posted. It is possible the Egyptian court is honestly trying to protect the Muslim population from a video which will truly offend their ideals and may possibly even harm current social order. However, it is also possible the government is attempting to apply broad new restrictions to internet freedoms in an attempt to increase the difficulty, and possibly the costs, of expressing private views in a public outlet; thus furthering the use of private preference falsifications. Salma Said, a Mosireen journalist, phrases the dilemma quite well: "They are testing Egyptian society's reaction to such verdicts, using religion as a pretext to facilitate imposing such restrictions" (Clark 2013).

It will be interesting to observe the reaction of the Egyptian citizenry to the new restrictions. The new restrictions may lead to increased protests by simply adding to the grievances held by private citizens against the government. However, it is important not to fall victim to cognitive dissonance when analyzing such events; we must not simply use current events to reinforce our current view of Egypt or the Muslim Brotherhood. While doubtful, it is entirely possible the video is extremely offensive to the faith of the Islamic population and the ban on YouTube could be welcomed by the general population.

1.  Clark, Liat. "As Unrest Grows, Egypt's Courts Block YouTube but Fail to Protect Women." Wired UK. 12 Feb. 2013. <http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-02/12/egypt-youtube-ban>.
2. "Egypt Blocks YouTube over Anti-Islam Film." Aljazeera. 09 Feb. 2013. <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/02/201329152030960569.html>.
3. Stephen, Alfred. "Tunisia's Transition and the Twin Tolerations." Journal of Democracy 23.2 (2012): 89-103.


  1. I'm not quite sure if banning Youtube was the smartest move from the Egyptian government. I think websites such as Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. have helped people express themselves, and what they believe in, especially when it comes to politics. I think that banning YouTube, and other websites like Youtube, would lead to more upheaval from the Egyptian citizens. Perhaps, a better way to deal with this situation would have been to ask Youtube to take the video off their website.

  2. I think it is an attempt by the newly appointed Egyptian government to test the waters of internet regulation and to see how the people react. I understand that it is offensive to many Egyptian citizens and some Egyptians reacted violently toward American institutions within Egypt... but if they are trying to establish a "democracy" and are in favor of certain democratic principles, banning YouTube for 30 days seems counterintuitive.