Late Friday night, A Moroccan in Washington D.C. broke the news that YouTube had been blocked in Morocco. He remarked that “It's quite saddening to see such a thing happening in Morocco;a country that has made giant steps in freedoms and socio-economic reforms in the span of short 8 years.”
YouTube is not the first site banned in Morocco. Last year, Livejournal, one of the first blogging sites; and Google Earth, which offers satellite photos in sharp detail of most of the world were blocked. Certain sites and blogs documenting the Western Sahara conflict have been banned for years now, although a few in English remain.
By Saturday morning, the blogoma had exploded in commentary on the subject, some remarking upon why YouTube had been banned, others criticizing the censure. Motic was the first to speculate, saying:
This new censorship, as illegal and unacceptable as all the others, has nothing to do with security. It demonstrates once again how clumsy and awkward the Moroccan policy is towards IT and the internet. Moroccan authorities go another step farther away from mastering this tool. Censoring a site secretly and illegally comes to recognizing the enemy's arguments! Is this the best thing that Morocco can do in order to defend its territorial integrity? Censorship is obsolete, it is a reflex of an older era. It can only be interpreted as a sign of defeat and despair.
Au début était le blog (fr) also expressed dismay over the censure:
Vous avez sans doute remarqué que depuis deux ou trois jours que la vidéo de Nass El Ghiwane insérée dans ce billet ne fonctionne plus. Ne cherchez pas d'explications techniques lointaines. Le site Youtube est tout simplement censuré au Maroc par Maroc Telecom, filiale de la multinationale Vivendi! Vous avez très bien lu: on censure encore au Maroc.
In the Maroc IT blog, (fr) Omar el Hyani posted a piece urging readers to boycott Maroc Telecom, which seems to be the culprit, and encouraged bloggers to post a graphic in support of the boycott:
Je demanderais à tous les lecteurs de ce blog, de boycotter les produits de Maroc Telecom, et pour ceux qui possèdent un blog ou une page personnelle, d’afficher le logo anti-censure sur leur page
Most bloggers were considerably angry over Maroc Telecom's censoring of YouTube. Youssef at Maghrebism urged readers to take action, stating his own intent to set up a petition against Vivendi International's actions:
The king & government have to realize that progress is not only words. Saying that you’re progressing is not enough. You actually have to take action to progress.
The reason for this post is my disappointment and anger towards to the silence. We have been silent for too long.
We have been silent after Livejournal, after Google Earth. We didn’t make our voices heard.
This is not only shameful but also dangerous. If we stay silent, more sites and services will be blocked.
We have to speak up and say that the recent block of Youtube is wrong and damaging.
The block doesn’t only damage the internet-users but also Morocco.
So please, let us speak up. Let us make our voices heard and stop the deafening silence. I’m planning to set up a petition and contact Vivendi Universal, the mother company of Maroc Telecom. Vivendi Universal has its own department of Sustainable Development, promoting dialogue and social responsibility. Clearly they don’t promote that through the block of a major website?
Morocco Guide surmised that the banning of YouTube will have a negative effect on Moroccan advertising, given the statistics:
You don't need an advanced degree in statistics to conclude that promoting anything in Morocco, music and Hip Hop is the way to go hence this new ad video for the new mobile phone company Sma3ni.
The video was added to Youtube on Mar, 07, 2007 and was viewed by more than 484,876 (surpassing all the 6 versions available at youtube).
In the same vein, El Hafa (fr) noted that the ban will only give a negative view of Morocco while providing free advertising to YouTube: “De cette maniers tous le monde a seulement contribuer a donner encore une fois une image sous-développée du maroc et… faire un peu plus de publiciter gratuite pour youtube.”
Although most bloggers were up in arms over the banning, it would be unbalanced reporting not to mention those who considered the other side. A post in my own blog, The Morocco Report urged bloggers to speak out against censorship: “Personally, I have no idea what we can do, but I know that keeping quiet won’t help. Morocco bloggers, join me in speaking out against internet censorship.” The post garnered an inordinate number of comments arguing for both sides. Two are below:
While I’m strictly against censorship to silence free speech, personally I can totally imagine why anyone would block You Tube for safety reasons. It’s a perfect medium to pass on any type of information either to influence the masses or to speak in code. While most of us go there for entertainment purposes, there are plenty of political organizations who use it solely for advancing their own political agendas. Who’s to say that terrorist organizations aren’t using it to communicate out there in plain daylight and we don’t even know it.
There is a lot of trash and objectionable, even dangerous material getting posted. I saw a hate video on You Tube that was shocking in the level of ignorance and hostility, but as I said we are all being punished for what a few people are doing and yes, some people are so stupid it is the only way to prevent them from being sucked into an agenda they don’t understand.
Censorship isn’t the answer to eliminating the problem but it’s the simplest method of controlling it/us and government is famous for going for the lowest common denominator and the least thought/work intensive means of problem solving.
It is worth noting that there have been no official news reports as of Sunday afternoon as to the causes behind Maroc Telecom's (or the Moroccan government's) censorship of YouTube. The only post as of yet to make it to the Google News search for keyword “Morocco” was from MidEast Youth. The blogoma eagerly awaits answers.