In the aftermath of the Innocence of Muslims debacle, several countries were pressured — by public outrage, pressure from Muslim clerics and institutions, or Islamists in government — to do something to make sure that the blasphemous film never saw the light of day again.
In Egypt, courts ruled that all sites hosting content from the film or linking to content from the film should be blocked. This proved difficult, so the courts explicitly demanded a 30-day ban on YouTube (the site that hosted the offending clips that fueled the turmoil). More on that from EFF and EIPR and the Guardian.
The communication ministry quickly announced (after pressure from telecommunication companies) that a YouTube ban would be impractical and too expensive (not to mention, illegal).
But the censorship mission didn’t stop at a failed attempt to block YouTube. The National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA) was on the case. They stated on their website that they were willing to carry out the YouTube ban, and that they were only waiting for a copy of the verdict from the court. When the communication ministry announced that this ban would be expensive and impractical, the NTRA decided to innovate. They decided to crowdsource censorship!
Here’s how it works:
If you see a website that is linking to Innocence of Muslims content or is hosting Innocence of Muslims content, you go to this website type in the offending url, fill out a captcha, and click submit. Then, ostensibly, the NTRA reviews the submission, determines if the website does in fact meet the criteria for being blocked, and if so, poof, the site is blocked for those in Egypt. It’s impossible to know what will happen if urls unrelated to Innocence of Muslims are submitted.
New websites pop up every day, so, unfortunately for those working to stop nasty things from being said online, scouring the internet to block offensive content is a Sisyphean task. But if the right innovation is applied, there is no task too large on the internet, all you have to do is leverage the public and crowdsource the effort!