A wave of violent riots has spread throughout the Middle East, from Libya to Afghanistan, incited by an inflammatory YouTube video about Islam. After the death of a US ambassador in Libya, the White House reached out to Google, YouTube’s parent company, to review the video and remove it for offensive content. Google responded Friday that it would not be removing the video from YouTube, as it felt the video did not violate its terms of service.
“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. This video — which is widely available on the Web — is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube.”
Google’s controversial decision sparked a debate about the limits between free speech and safety. The video has been directly blamed for the violent rioting spreading throughout the Middle East that has killed a number of people, some of them American citizens. However, Google feels that the video, while distasteful, is within its submission guidelines. Google is supporting the right of free speech of the filmmaker, while the White House is more concerned with the safety of Americans and innocents abroad.
The debate has continued among news outlets and online communities. Those who support Google’s decision cite the First Amendment as their reason. The video is extremely offensive, but does not use racial slurs or inappropriate imagery. Some agree with its message, but most simply respect the right of the filmmaker to express his differing opinion.
Those who support the removal of the video are divided into two camps: those who feel the video is excessively offensive, and those who feel that the video endangers innocents who become casualties of the riots. The video depicts Muhammad, a prophet of Islam, as a pedophile and a womanizer. Many feel the video debases and defames a religious figure in such a way that makes it removable under YouTube’s submission guidelines. Others believe that the video itself is a security risk, and should be removed to preserve peace in the Middle East and other Islamic nations.
The reaction to the video took a serious turn last week when US Ambassador J Christopher Stevens was killed during a riot in Benghazi, Libya. The White House has not yet responded to Google’s statement or decision regarding the video.