This weekend, the Cairo Administrative Court issued a 30-day ban order on YouTube and all other websites that host or link to content from the anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims,” which was protested worldwide after footage from the trailer was shown on Egyptian television. The court’s ruling may force the hand of the National Telecom Regulation Authority (NTRA) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), which have refrained from pursuing such a ban themselves.
This is far from the first time that a court ruling has forced the NTRA to censor Internet content. In November 2009, an administrative court ordered a ban on all pornographic websites. The order declared that “freedom of expression and public rights should be restricted by maintaining the fundamentals of religion, morality and patriotism” and denounced pornographic content as “venomous and vile.” In November 2009, Egypt’s Prosecutor General at the time, Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, ordered government ministries to enforce this ban. The NTRA responded by sending letters to all ISPs requesting that they block all pornographic content. While EFF expressed concern that this could mark the beginning of a centralized filtering regime, the NTRA rightly declined to go that route, dismissing it as being costly and ineffective.