CAIRO -- A Cairo court Saturday ordered the government to block access to the video-sharing website YouTube for 30 days for carrying an anti-Islam film that caused deadly riots across the world.
Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered YouTube blocked and described the film as "offensive to Islam and the Prophet [Muhammad]." He made the ruling in the Egyptian capital where protests against the film erupted in September before spreading to more than 20 countries, killing more than 50 people.
The ruling however can be appealed, and based on precedent, might not be enforced. A spokeswoman for YouTube's parent company, Google, said in a statement that the firm had "received nothing from the judge or government related to this matter."
The 14-minute trailer for the movie "Innocence of Muslims" portrays Islam's Prophet Muhammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile. It was produced in the United States by an Egyptian-born Christian now a U.S. citizen.
Egypt's new constitution includes a ban on insulting "religious messengers and prophets." Broadly worded blasphemy laws were also in effect under former President Hosni Mubarak before his ouster in a popular revolt two years ago.
Similar orders to censor pornographic websites deemed offensive have not been enforced in Egypt because of high costs associated with technical applications. Blocking YouTube might be easier to enforce, though it also can be circumvented by active Internet users.
Rights activists say Egypt's ministry of communications and information technology has appeared unwilling to enforce such bans. The cabinet spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.
Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said the decision to ban YouTube stems in large part from a lack of knowledge among judges about how the Internet works. Activists say this has led to a lack of courtroom discussion on technical aspects of digital technology, leaving cases based solely on threats to national security and defamation of religion.
"This verdict shows that judges' understanding of technology is weak," Eid said. "The judges do not realize that one wrong post on a website does not mean you have to block the entire website."
Eid, who is executive director at The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said the government should file an appeal and make it clear to judges that, at most, only specific pages on websites should be blocked.