YouTube refuses to remove anti-Islamic film clip

::::YouTube will not remove a film clip mocking the Islamic
Prophet Mohammad that has been blamed for anti-US
protests in Egypt and Libya, but it has blocked access to it
in those countries.
The clip, based on a longer film, depicts the prophet as a
fraud and philanderer and has been blamed for sparking
violence at US embassies in Cairo and Benghazi. US
Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other
American diplomats were killed by gunmen in an attack on
the US Consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday.
Google's response to the crisis highlighted the struggle
faced by the company, and others like it, to balance free
speech with legal and ethical concerns in an age when
social media can impact world events.
Analysts say they have seen a handful of internet
companies generally take a more hands-off approach to
controversial political speech, perhaps motivated by
idealistic and business considerations.
In a brief statement on Wednesday, Google officials
rejected the notion of removing the video on grounds it
did not violate YouTube's policies, but restricted viewers
in Egypt and Libya from loading it due to the special
circumstances in the country.
"This video – which is widely available on the Web – is
clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube,"
Google said in a statement. "However, given the very
difficult situation in Libya and Egypt, we have temporarily
restricted access in both countries."
The company added: "Our hearts are with the families of
the people murdered in yesterday's attack in Libya."
The 14-minute clip is a trailer for a film called the
"Innocence of Muslims," widely attributed to a man who
described himself as a California-based Israeli Jew named
Sam Bacile.
Under Google's procedures, YouTube users can flag
objectionable content. It is reviewed by a team of Google
staff scattered around the world. By late Thursday, a
copy of the video had been viewed more than 122,000
times and had been flagged by users for removal, but it
When videos come under review, YouTube weighs the
content against " community guidelines, " which prohibit
hate speech, including speech that attacks or demeans a
group based on religion.
"They've had a number of years to be thinking about free
speech issues," Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain
"I can see them trying to keep an eye on the longer term
and not wanting to go down the slippery slope of
entertaining more and more demands to take things down.
That can be corrosive in the longer haul."
Observers say Google has grown more averse to removing
videos. After its 2006 acquisition of YouTube, it was
accused of censorship in several high-profile
"They're squeezed on all sides," said Rebecca MacKinnon,
a fellow at the New America Foundation. "But because of
pressure from a lot of people who feel they made the
wrong decisions, they now generally err on the side of
keeping things up."
In recent years, Google has used technology to filter out
videos in certain countries to comply with local
regulations. Twitter announced a similar technology to
censor tweets by country this year.
Others say Google has not done enough and bears a
responsibility to police hate- speech more closely.
In 2008, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut accused
Google of not doing enough to remove YouTube videos
produced by Islamic militants. An Italian court in 2010
convicted four Google executives of invasion of privacy
after faulting the company for not moving quickly enough
to pull a video of an autistic child being bullied.
On Wednesday, Afghanistan's general director of
information technology at the Ministry of Communications,
Aimal Marjan, told Reuters: " We have been told to shut
down YouTube to the Afghan public until the video is
taken down."
YouTube did not respond to a request for comment on the
Afghan government's move.
Underscoring Google's quandary, some digital free
expression groups have criticised YouTube for censoring
the video.
Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said
given Google' s strong track record of protecting free
speech, she was surprised the company gave in to pressure
to selectively block in an attempt "to be seen as doing
something in response to the violence."
"It is extremely unusual for YouTube to block a video in
any country without it being a violation of their terms of
service or in response to a valid legal complaint," Galperin
said. " I'm not sure they did the right thing."
Zittrain said th e dilemmas facing YouTube will persist as
the flow of online content continues to balloon.
"It's a more vibrant and chaotic speech marketplace than
we've ever known," Zittrain said.
Source: agencies

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