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Egyptian judge orders block of YouTube over anti-Islam film

| Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 8:30 p.m.

CAIRO — A Cairo court on Saturday ordered the government to block access to YouTube for 30 days because the video-sharing site carried the anti-Islam film that caused deadly riots last year.

Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered YouTube blocked for carrying the movie trailer, which he described as “offensive to Islam and the Prophet (Muhammad).”

He made the ruling in the Egyptian capital where the first protests against the film erupted in September before spreading to more than 20 countries, killing more than 50 people.

The ruling, however, can be appealed and, based on precedent, might not be enforced.

The 14-minute advertisement for the movie “Innocence of Muslims” portrays the Prophet Muhammad, the central figure of Islam, as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile. It was produced in the United States by an Egyptian-born Christian who became a U.S. citizen.

Egypt's new constitution includes a ban on insulting “religious messengers and prophets.” Broadly worded blasphemy laws were also in effect under former President Hosni Mubarak before his ouster in a popular revolt two years ago.

Similar orders to censor pornographic websites deemed offensive have not been enforced in Egypt because of high costs associated with technical applications. Blocking YouTube might be easier to enforce, though it also can be circumvented by active Internet users.

Rights activists say Egypt's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has appeared unwilling to enforce such bans.

Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said the decision to ban YouTube stems in large part from a lack of knowledge among judges about how the Internet works.

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