Shadow Net Series 1: Pakistan’s War on YouTube

An article for a website I was involved with documenting Internet mysteries. Every Thursday, I will periodically share older articles revolving around cybersecurity and internet mysteries. I hope you enjoy them.

Originally published: Nov 17th 2020.

This past week (11/11/2020) YouTube went down for more than two hours . The last time that happened was in 2008 and was a direct result of orders from officials in Pakistan. 

In 2008 wildly controversial Netherlands conservative, Geert Wilders known for his harsh criticisms of Islam fundamentalism was releasing a short movie titled, Fitna. The film was scorched universally for its anti-Islamic commentary and many Muslim nations condemned the film – with the country Jordan even summoning Wilders to court for, “inciting hatred”. He even earned himself a spot on Al-Qaeda’s hit list. So, suffice to say it’s not much of a reach to say people took issue with his short film. 

With all of this going on, one of the many countries that wanted no part in Wilder’s film misadventures was the government of Pakistan. The middle power planned on banning it outright and preventing any of its citizens from seeing the film at all. With YouTube broadcasting clips of Wilder’s film – The Pakistani government set its aim on the streaming site. But, either intentionally or accidentally took the cyber warfare a bit too far.

“After receiving a censorship order from the telecommunications ministry directing that be blocked, Pakistan Telecom went even further. By accident or design, the company broadcast instructions worldwide claiming to be the legitimate destination for anyone trying to reach YouTube’s range of Internet addresses.”


All websites and domains are provided with a numerical address or an IP address. That address is provided to your router which simply put, runs through addresses to see what server it needs to go to next to reach the website you have entered. Pakistan Telecom essentially, broadcast its server to route all YouTube traffic to its server thus highjacking all traffic on the way to the actual website for hours. You can probably imagine this was a big deal for some. 

By doing that however – Pakistan pretty much D-dos attacked itself – flooding and overwhelming its own computer’s servers by getting millions of requests from around the world within minutes. Its own servers not being able to handle the traffic itself basically committed suicide. A sad affair all around. 

Since then Pakistan has had several other instances of unblocking and then subsequently blocking YouTube again over objectionable material and in 2014 even asked Google for its own version of YouTube as to have better control of what the people of Pakistan can see.

As you well know by now, this type of censorship is hardly unique and not limited to only Middle power or third world countries. You will soon find out that it’s happening right here, in the land of the free, as well.

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One response to “Shadow Net Series 1: Pakistan’s War on YouTube”

  1. This is geting serious.

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