A short video uploaded to YouTube, as well as several other video sites on the Internet, has sparked a major crisis. But should a negative reaction to a video online ever justify its removal by Google and other denizens of the Web?
Innocence Of Muslims Video
The Innocence Of Muslims video has acted as a powder keg igniting violent protests across the Middle East. Four American diplomats, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, were killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi.
The 14-minute clip, which is taken from a longer film, is clearly offensive to Muslims with its mocking depiction of the Prophet Mohammad. Most right-thinking people wish the video had never seen the light of day, but now that’s it out there on the Internet there’s a moral question over how to proceed.
Staying On YouTube
The White House is believed to have informally asked Google to review whether the video broke any YouTube guidelines. Google responded with a statement saying:
“This video – which is widely available on the Web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt, we have temporarily restricted access in both countries.”
The removal of the video in those particular countries would seem to make sense, but some freedom of speech advocates are even suggesting that is too far. They’re insisting that as the video hasn’t broken any legal rules, why is there even a question of takedowns, temporary or otherwise?
Google has for many years taken a stolid approach to these questions, weighing up both sides of the argument, and usually coming out in favor of free speech. But this particular clip is causing such a brutal response that I do wonder whether it counts as a special case.
Sadly, even if the video were to be removed from YouTube, it’s never going to be banished from the Web altogether. Meanwhile, Google is damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
[Via The Telegraph]