As Violence Spreads in Arab World, Google Blocks Access to Inflammatory Video
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
SAN FRANCISCO — As violence spread in the Arab world over a video on YouTube ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, Google, the owner of YouTube, blocked access to it in two of the countries in turmoil, Egypt and Libya, but did not remove the video from its Web site.
Google said it decided to block the video in response to violence that killed four American diplomatic personnel in Libya. The company said its decision was unusual, made because of the exceptional circumstances. Its policy is to remove content only if it is hate speech, violating its terms of service, or if it is responding to valid court orders or government requests. And it said it had determined that under its own guidelines, the video was not hate speech.
Millions of people across the Muslim world, though, viewed the video as one of the most inflammatory pieces of content to circulate on the Internet. From Afghanistan to Libya, the authorities have been scrambling to contain an outpouring of popular outrage over the video and calling on the United States to take measures against its producers.
Google’s action raises fundamental questions about the control that Internet companies have over online expression. Should the companies themselves decide what standards govern what is seen on the Internet? How consistently should these policies be applied?
“Google is the world’s gatekeeper for information so if Google wants to define the First Amendment to exclude this sort of material then there’s not a lot the rest of the world can do about it,” said Peter Spiro, a constitutional and international law professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. “It makes this episode an even more significant one if Google broadens the block.”
He added, though, that “provisionally,” he thought Google made the right call. “Anything that helps calm the situation, I think is for the better.”
Under YouTube’s terms of service, hate speech is speech against individuals, CLICK HERE TO READ