So there’s this extremely offensive-to-Muslims 14 minute video and riots are breaking out and people have been killed in parts of the world where (1) people don’t have the same understanding of “free speech” that we have in the US, (2) may be misinformed about free speech in the US (for example they may believe we limit some speech like Holocaust denial which we don’t, and are purposely allowing this offense against Muslims), and/or (3) have a fixed belief (based not only on stuff they’ve read, but maybe stuff they’ve experienced) that the US is the Great Satan and responsible for all their suffering.

I understand why the US can’t and won’t apologize for its Constitution, and why it can’t stop Google/YouTube, which is not the US Government,  from showing the video. I also get how the middle of a riot is not a great time for a teachable moment about our wonderful freedoms. Here’s what I don’t get: Why hasn’t Google (which now owns YouTube) followed the US government’s request to take down the video?

I get that Google doesn’t want to be told by a government what it can or can’t do although I believe they put up with this in China for quite a while. However, there are guidelines for YouTube, and YouTube as a private entity has the right to decide what material goes on and what’s “offensive” to the community to the point where it should be banned. Granted there could be a floodgate with every group that feels they’ve been “attacked” by a video clamoring for banning. God knows it’s easy to find hate of every kind all over the Internet, and if Google started to ban hate, what would be left?

However, real people are being killed over this goofiness. Certainly there is no artistic merit or any case other than “free expression” for this material’s still being shown. And if taking it down means a bunch of complaints about other stuff like the racist garbage or the anti-Semitic crap, so what?   If homophobes start to complain about please for marriage equality, and fundies of all creeds get incensed by scantily clad ladies, what the biggie? Google/YouTube is free to go back to its policy of ignoring these complaints and defending its freedoms, but just because you have the right to show whatever you want, doesn’t mean you have to.

(Please feel free to disagree.)

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2 Comments on Why Doesn’t Google/YouTube Just Take It Down?

  1. Anthony Barker says:

    I agree. Google is being pointlessly obstinate about this. It is not a matter of censorship, it is a case of extremely (or recklessly) bad judgment which has already resulted in numerous deaths for which Google might reasonably be considered something similar to an accessory.

  2. Iain says:

    I really wanted to comment on “I Used to Live Here Once…”, but it’s no longer accepting comments – presumably because it’s more than two years old. However, I’ve decided that I have something to say on this post, too, so all is not lost.

    Freedom of speech is tricky. In spite of what some think, it’s never unfettered. Scratch on the surface anyone who loves quoting what Voltaire didn’t write (“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”)*, and you are likely enough to find some raging fundie whose devotion to the cause covers everything except what he just doesn’t want to hear.

    In the case of the bizarre “Innocence of Muslims” video – what appears on YouTube is, of course, just a trailer – I’m not quite sure what to think. The danger is that if you give in to the fundies, you will encourage others to believe that killing a few people is a sure means of preventing the expression of opinions which they find offensive. But on the other hand, do we have the right to sacrifice the lives of others to our own liberal convictions? Don’t know. Not sure.

    As for “I Used to Live Here Once…”, it strikes me as interesting that it should bring a tear to the eye. After all, you tell the story plainly enough, with no overt attempt to make anyone blub. My guess is simply that thoughts of the past are always sad, because they are thoughts of our own mortality.

    *Here’s something Voltaire did write, and which appeals to me: “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” I once searched for a pithy way of saying this, but I’m not Voltaire.

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