Most of the world’s Internet users lost access to YouTube for several hours Sunday after an attempt by Pakistan’s government to block access domestically affected other countries.
The outage highlighted yet another of the Internet’s vulnerabilities, coming less than a month after broken fiber-optic cables in the Mediterranean took Egypt off line and caused communications problems from the Middle East to India.
An Internet expert said Sunday’s problems came after a Pakistani telecommunications company complied with the block by directing requests for YouTube videos to a “black hole.” So instead of serving up videos of skateboarding dogs, it sent the traffic into oblivion.
The problem was that the company also accidentally identified itself to Internet computers as the world’s fastest route to YouTube, leading requests from across the Internet to the black hole.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had ordered 70 Internet service providers on Friday to block access to YouTube.com because of anti-Islamic movies on the video-sharing site, which is owned by Google Inc.
The authority did not specify what the offensive material was, but a PTA official said the ban concerned a trailer for an upcoming film by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who has said he plans to release a movie portraying Islam as fascist and prone to inciting violence against women and homosexuals.
The block was intended to cover only Pakistan, but it extended to about two-thirds of the global Internet population, starting at 1:47 p.m. EST Sunday, according to Renesys Corp., a Manchester, N.H., company that keeps track of the pathways of the Internet for telecommunications companies and other clients.