IMDb ban: Internet Movie DataBase or Internet and Media Data Ban?

Published: November 23, 2013

PTA's new ban on the global movie database site. PHOTO: Publicity

Pakistan has been suffering at the hands of perception and media-related matters being blown out of proportion, falling victim to the same.

First it was Facebook, because of a pastor and his anti-Islamic intentions. When that phased over, it was followed up by the Benghazi attack and the movie that was the cause of a tragic diplomatic mission episode, unwarranted frustrations being vented in the form of riots, stone pelting and much worse across Pakistan and eventually a ban on YouTube that has lasted over 400 days.

While the above two bans had the undercurrent of both inciting religious violence, users across Pakistan were suddenly facing the same error on accessing Internet Movie Database (IMDb) since November 18, 2013, that they would get when trying to access YouTube.

There was no prior announcement made. Users could access the site till Sunday but come Monday, they were hailed with an unpleasant surprise. While social media was where the ban was discovered, users across the country confirm most cannot access the site. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do grant access while most do not.

The bloody riots in Rawalpindi and across various cities over Ashura and the following days resulted in a curfew being imposed in various cities in the country. Not soon after the riots started was it revealed that hate speech was being incited on social media prior to Ashura by religio-political parties, who are more popular for their intolerant beliefs towards other Islamic sects and religions.

It is assumed that the access to IMDb being curtailed could be related to the YouTube ban and the movie that caused global outcry. Further to the recent riots, the government is now announcing the measures that will be taken against hate speech. Let’s take YouTube as an example. It is evident that Pakistan, a country with some fine information technology academic institutions lacks the ability to devise filters to curtail access to such content. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), and at times ministerial authorities, simply opts for the most extreme measure, a ban.

What is interesting is how this practice of banning stuff, considered not feasible for the masses, is so very similar to one of the world’s most religiously popular countries and also a great ally of Pakistan. Ironic though, how the very same religious countries continue to grant access to IMDb and YouTube to their citizens. Were they against the movie that resulted in the Benghazi attack? Then what brings Pakistan’s authorities to ban YouTube and IMDb, resulting in failure to finding solutions, considering the fact that other religious countries with stricter rules have no such bars?

What propagates and warrants a ban on IMDb, especially if it is unannounced or if an official statement awaits? Is it an error of judgement on PTA’s part? Is it some of the movies listed on IMDb, one being the cause of the YouTube ban?

What most users may not know is the surprising content that is banned on some local ISPs; including certain Wikipedia pages.

One does wonder if the IMDb ban is perhaps the start of many possible unannounced bans to come, while we sit in fear and figure out  what is defined as ‘hate speech’. If social media is where the extremist political parties were warned of the Ashura attacks, could this result in an internet ban altogether for containing content related to exposure and religious expression of all kinds, as perceived by our authorities?

I suppose this is just one more ban added to the list that we do not see eye to eye on.

Ambreen Haider

Ambreen Haider

A Banker. She tweets as @ambreenhaider (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Noman Ansari

    Let’s ban the IMDB but keep all the Pakistani hate speech on the internet.Recommend

  • Sigh

    You’re absolutely right! The problem is that the people in authority have zero knowledge about the way that the internet works and it is impossible to ban something! Oh well, another website we will have to visit via proxies and vpns…. Recommend

  • TTV

    Oh great, another ban that wasn’t needed.

  • Anooop

    The thing that baffles me is Pakistani relative-liberal-elites campaign so much for the unbanning of YouTube and now IMDB, but no word on other important, related issues.

    The sheer number of articles against banning Entertainment sites is promising for a society.

    However, consider this:

    YouTube was banned for hosting Blasphemous material. The same crime has been alleged to be committed by several Pakistani minority members who are currently in jail.

    Yet, if you compare the number of articles recently against banning of websites against those articles which talk about freeing those charged of Blasphemy and revoking the law, you will find it heavily tilted to one side.

    It seems the Pakistani liberals(relatively speaking to other players in Pakistan they can be considered as liberals) are concerned with their freedom to watch the video of their liking and download the movie of their liking, than campaign for discriminatory laws, which goes against the modern ethos.Recommend

  • AlterEgo

    But IMDB is running fine. Checked just right now. There was some DNS misrouting issue and pages were not opening correctly. It was an equal nightmare for me since my huge library of movies (>2000) running on media server gets updated in XBMC by fetching information from IMDB and other sources.Recommend

  • Anon

    So….If I write a HATE comment here….tomorrow express tribune would be blocked?

    Stupidity knows no bounds.Recommend

  • Zahir

    lets ban the whole internet thing.. we should be spending more time in jungles !Recommend

  • Muhammad Saadullah

    its not ban its working…Recommend