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YouTube was inaccessible for more than an hour around the world today when the Pakistani government blocked the site within the country due to it hosting anti-Islamic content. According to multiple accounts, the problem seems to have originated by an apparent mistake by Pakistan Telecom, which posted a redirect for YouTube’s IP address that Hong Kong Internet Service provider PCCW distributed to other ISPs around the world. That meant people who tried to visit the site or its embedded videos were met with error messages.
While experts say the worldwide downtime was probably an accident, it shows how hopeless and risky it is for hidebound governments to try to block access to the Internet.
Pingdom reports YouTube was down for a total of 1 hour and 34 minutes on Sunday. The downtime affected users in countries including Germany, China, the United States, Russia, the UK, and Australia (click on thumbnail for image from Thaslayer).
A post to a network operators discussion group explains what happened and lists the IP addresses that were substituted.
So, it seems that youtube’s ip block has been hijacked by a more specific prefix being advertised. This is a case of IP hijacking, not case of DNS poisoning, youtube engineers doing something stupid, etc.
According to the BBC, “The block on the servers was lifted once PCCW had been told of the issue by engineers at YouTube.”
The offensive videos reportedly included those Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, and/or a trailer for a film that’s not complimentary to Islam.
Among many countries who’ve been upset about YouTube hosting videos they deem inappropriate, the Thai, Turkish, and Brazilian governments have all blocked YouTube. And in many cases, Google has complied with requests to remove or filter content, even if a video does not break the site’s terms of service. Such appeasements might be the cost of doing international business, but they are a slippery slope.
Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf visited YouTube’s recording booth at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month, according to TechCrunch. He “came by so many times that people stopped noticing,” was how TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington described it. And now, even if by accident, Musharraf was responsible for taking the whole site down? That’s sad.