A Google spokesperson has confirmed that a controversial video clip about the Islamic prophet Muhammad will remain on YouTube – despite a White House request for Mountain View to “review” the clip.
“We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere,” the spokesperson explained.
”This video – which is widely available on the Web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, we’ve restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal such as India and Indonesia, as well as in Libya and Egypt given the very sensitive situations in these two countries.”
Kevin Bankston, director of the free expression project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said that Google was walking a “precarious” line in regards to blocking the video.
”On the one hand, blocking the video sends the message that if you violently object to speech you disagree with, you can get it censored. At the same tim the decision to block in those two countries specifically is kind of hard to second guess, considering the severity of the violence in those two areas,” he told the New York Times.
“It seems they’re trying to balance the concern about censorship with the threat of actual violence in Egypt and Libya. It’s a difficult calculation to make and highlights the difficult positions that content platforms are sometimes put in.”
Meanwhile, Peter Spiro, a constitutional and international law professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, said he believes Google made the right call.
”Anything that helps calm the situation, I think is for the better. [Remember], 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… It makes this episode an even more significant one if Google broadens the block.”
Additional information about the controversial video, fallout and implications can be found here.