As violence continues to spread throughout the Arab and Muslim world over an inflammatory YouTube video, Google Inc., the site’s parent company, has been scrambling to try and determine its role in advancing the violence or subduing it.
The video in question is titled “The Innocence of Muslims,” produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian Coptic Christian living in Southern California.
The film has outraged many in the Middle East for its image of the prophet Muhammad as a fraud and the Muslim people as being inherently immoral and violent.
The resulting backlash in the Middle East has caused a great deal of anti-American protest that included the death of the American ambassador and three others at the U.S. embassy in Libya. As a result of the violence, Google has “temporarily restricted access” of the video in Libya and Egypt.
Because of this decision, the company has been taking criticism from people who are calling the act of restricting the video censorship brought on out of fear of violence. However, this is a bit of an extreme accusation.
While it’s true that censoring a video that doesn’t violate any country’s local laws or violates YouTube’s terms of service is unprecedented, it is hard to argue with the decision to take down the video in places where it is costing innocent lives.
While Google is catching heat for temporarily removing the videos in these two countries, people are overlooking the decision that they made to reject a plea from the White House to remove the video in the United States.
The company said that it looked over its established guidelines and determined that, by their own rules, they are not permitted to remove the video in the U.S. because it doesn’t constitute hate speech by their definition. They would be forced to remove a video that made fun of Muslims, not one that simply makes fun of Islam.
So, while the site is under attack as being a model of censorship online, they aren’t being commended for standing up to pressure from the government and fighting for freedom of expression in America – where it is a protected constitutional right. Unfortunately, the issue isn’t so clean cut once it leaves our borders.
The Internet is not dictated by any one country’s set of laws or principles. What may be the most popular video in one part of the world can be nothing short of deplorable and inappropriate in another part.
That puts an online powerhouse like Google in an odd position of having to champion the ideas of freedom of speech on an international level.
Obviously this wasn’t an undertaking that the company sought out when it first established itself but it is one that they’re doing their best to accomplish with as little pressure and bloodshed in other cultures as possible.
The bottom line is that Google cannot police 100 percent of its content. According to the company, they received 1,965 requests from government agencies around the world to remove 20,311 pieces of content. In some of these cases, the content was removed; in others it was not.
Even an online colossus like Google cannot hope to be programmatic about the way that it deals with every possible censorship issue.
With over 72 hours of content being posted to YouTube every minute, it’s unreasonable to ask the powers that be to have a unified way of dealing with all inflammatory content.
It’s even more unreasonable to say that 100 percent of that content should be shoved down other cultures’ throats, no matter how many innocent lives are put in jeopardy.
Google Inc. has taken the extremely difficult task of keeping freedom of expression possible online…Since they are a corporation with guidelines and not a constitution, it can be said that they’ve done the best that can be expected to have done to preserve the ideas of freedom of speech on an international level while maintaining dignity to the rest of the world.