It’s been a stressful week for Google and YouTube! Google was requested by The White House to pull ‘The Innocence of Muslims’ from YouTube because of the violent protests that are shaking much of the Muslim world.
Google declined to pull the video, but it did block temporarily its viewing in both Libya and Egypt. Protests in those countries have been particularly bad, and Libya is where the American ambassador was murdered at the American consulate.
So, that is the very dicey situation in which Google finds itself as it tries to hash out an effective, coherent policy on content acceptability that is viewed all over the world. Even though the film is offensive to some viewers – it shows the Prophet Muhammad as a thug and child molester – it did not in any way violate hate speech rules or any sort of a law. However, Google made the call to remove the video from its archives in Libya and Egypt, given how violent things had gotten there.
Google may in the future continue to have trouble in balancing its need to protect free speech and to not offend certain sensibilities in some parts of the world. In many parts of the Muslim world, this is not simply an issue of religious sensitivity, or resentment of American power in the region.
The idea of freedom in the Muslim world, according to David D. Kirkpatrick, is different from the freedom of speech that we value in the West. There, they value more the right of a community – Muslim, Christian or Jewish – to be completely free of deep insults to its most deeply held values and traditions.
Also, there is simply a matter of technical limitations of both Google and YouTube. It is quite a task to constantly scour the thousands of videos that are uploaded every minute of the day…and then to make complex judgment calls about what may or may not cause people to resort to violence.