Film violence threatens online freedom

San Francisco - Internet rights champions on Friday were fearful that free speech online may be among the victims of violence spurred by an anti-Islam video posted to YouTube.

A decision by YouTube parent Google to deny access to the video in Libya and Egypt even though the film's hateful message isn't aimed at a particular person was seen by some as a compassionate step onto a slippery slope.

"If they do it this once, they are going to do it in other situations," said Eva Galperin, freedom of expression co-ordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation - a non-profit pressure group.

"There is a good chance you will hear from Google that, just this once, extenuating circumstances made them turn their back on freedom of expression; but that is just the beginning of the slippery slope."

On Friday, Google added India to the list of countries where YouTube has blocked access to the anti-Islam film, which surfaced in the United States and has since sparked deadly protests in the Muslim world.

The Pakistani and Afghan governments have blocked the movie themselves.

'Thugs let off the hook'


Indonesia, where most of the 240 million population practice Islam, has also demanded that Google-owned YouTube remove the film from its website.

Protesters have targeted US embassies over the film, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as an immoral sexual deviant.

Four people died in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Thursday as violence flared outside US embassies over the low-budget film.

The deaths followed the killing of a US diplomat and three colleagues in Syria on Tuesday, after a mob stormed the consulate in Benghazi.

Galperin branded Google's censorship of the video a "distressing" moves that "lets the thugs off the hook" by wrongly shifting responsibility to YouTube.

YouTube said that the video did not violate terms of service so would remain at the video-sharing website but that "given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries".

Warning

"Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered in yesterday's attack in Libya," the YouTube spokesperson said.

The White House said Friday it nudged YouTube to consider removing the film.

National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor said officials "reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use".

Extracts of the film were still available on YouTube on Friday, though they were accompanied by a warning that the content was "potentially offensive or inappropriate", adding that viewer discretion was advised.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney described the spreading demonstrations and attacks on US diplomatic posts in the Arab world sparked by the video as "a fairly volatile situation".

Google has made a point of not mediating content, opting to provide tools for copyright owners, governments and others to submit "take-down" notices for online content that is pirated, illegal, or in violation of service terms.

"That is one of the reasons YouTube has become this tremendous platform for expression all over the world," Galperin said.

"If YouTube decides who can handle a video and who can't, that is extraordinarily paternalistic."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Are you going to keep wearing a mask following the announcement that it is no longer required under law?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
No ways, I'm done
40% - 5212 votes
Yes, I still want to be cautious
25% - 3327 votes
Only certain circumstances
35% - 4636 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.23
-0.9%
Rand - Pound
19.69
-0.4%
Rand - Euro
16.96
-0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.17
-0.5%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-0.6%
Gold
1,818.49
-0.1%
Silver
20.80
-0.2%
Palladium
1,964.50
+4.8%
Platinum
917.50
+0.7%
Brent Crude
117.98
+2.5%
Top 40
61,554
-0.4%
All Share
67,747
-0.5%
Resource 10
65,762
-0.5%
Industrial 25
80,548
+0.1%
Financial 15
15,167
-1.5%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE