YouTube under new pressure over anti-Muslim film

Anti-Muslim film Several people have died during violent worldwide protests against the movie, which depicts the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light

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YouTube has blocked access to anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims in Saudi Arabia following a demand by Saudi ruler King Abdullah.

The government had said it would block access to the entire YouTube website if owners Google did not comply.

Google had rejected a request from the White House to remove the film, but has already blocked access to it in Libya, Egypt, Indonesia and India.

It said it would consider blocks in other nations where the film is illegal

In an official statement, King Abdullah said the website would be blocked if Google did not agree to remove links to the controversial film.

The country's Communications and Information Technology Commission also called on Saudi citizens and expats to report any links they found to the "defaming" film.

"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," said a statement released via the state press agency SPA.

Russia row

The Russian government has also asked for the material to be blocked.

A court in Russia is currently considering whether to classify the film as "extremist".

If it is classified as extremist, the entire YouTube website could be blocked.

However, under controversial new legislation due to commence on 1 November, digital content deemed "damaging to children" would be put on a nationwide blacklist and blocked by all internet service providers in the country without the requirement of a court order.

"It sounds like a joke, but because of this video... all of YouTube could be blocked throughout Russia," Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov wrote on Twitter.

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

'Extreme' response

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said such a ban would be "an extreme and disproportionate response" by the country.

"This is an extremely strange case - we have one individual's take being characterised as the position of the US government for political purposes and we really need to have a real discussion of why that is taking place and whether it is ever reasonable," he told the BBC.

"But the companies involved should resist such requests, except when ultimately they will obey national laws and that is completely reasonable."

A YouTube representative told the BBC: "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. However, we've restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal such as India and Indonesia as well as in Libya and Egypt given the very sensitive situations in these two countries.

"This approach is entirely consistent with principles we first laid out in 2007."

Google guidelines

Those principles include a worldwide ban on child pornography.

But Rachel Whetstone, Google's director of global communications and public affairs for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has written in a blog post that Google was not "the arbiter of what does and does not appear on the web".

"We try to take into account local cultures and needs - which vary dramatically around the world - when developing and implementing our global product policies," she said.

"Dealing with controversial content is one of the biggest challenges we face as a company."

In a separate statement issued on 20 September, YouTube said it would consider imposing a block on the video in other nations that declared the movie illegal but only after a "thorough review".

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