COLUMN: Google’s understandable mistake
Violent protests erupted around the Middle East and northern Africa last week over a bizarre, inflammatory movie trailer posted on YouTube that portrays Islam as a fraud and Muhammad as a pedophile.
The protests have spread to 20 countries in the region and have left at least 14 people dead, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Stevens was killed as protesters (or, as Department of Defense officials suspect, terrorists masquerading as protesters) armed with rocket-propelled grenades set fire to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
The violence has left an already unstable region on edge and American relations with some Middle Eastern states in trouble. U.S. officials warned of continued anti-American protests throughout the region all week.
In response, Google, which owns YouTube, blocked access to the movie trailer in Egypt and Libya. Google acted on its own power, denying a White House request to remove the video from the website by saying it does not violate its terms of service.
“This video — which is widely available on the web — is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube,” the company said in a statement. “However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries.”
That is a mistake.
While Google’s decision to side with the safety of innocent people over an abstract, pro-free speech ideal is completely understandable, the decision could have negative ramifications in the long run.
Think about it: Google, acting on its own after rejecting the White House’s request and not receiving any pressure from Libyan or Egyptian officials, is deciding on its own what is in the best interests of the Libyan and Egyptian people.
This is different than Google abiding by strict Chinese censorship regulations or following certain American laws. This is Google essentially picking and choosing what is best for others in the region.
As a business protected under the First Amendment, Google has the right to do that, of course. But ironically, this move may undermine freedom of speech on the Internet in the future.
The Arab Spring would have never occurred if not for freedom of information online. Once impossible to imagine, oppressive regimes were overthrown in the region as videos and news were spread online. In the process, unfortunately, many died and livelihoods were destroyed.
Inevitably, uprisings will occur again. When they do, should Google censor videos and search content in the name of safety? The precedent is now there.
As the Internet continues to grow in importance worldwide, Google, arguably the most important name on the web, must deeply commit itself to freedom of speech and the unrestricted spread of information. If it and other tech giants fail to do so, oppression will be able to thrive in the Information Age.
Leave a Comment
Like us on Facebook
- CE: Another 3-9 season, and both Enos and Heeke have to go! …
- Andy Villemure: I am looking for a KZ 900 block Z1E, that has not cracks tha…
- anonymous: Totally disagree on Heeke. Think he showed some real balls i…
- Amy Easton: Please let me know your lessons learned, how you organized t…
- Pete: I thought Central won a bowl game this year??? The program …
• Is your baby graduating CMU? Place a personal greeting and photo in CM Life's Baby Graduates special pages. Download the form here
• Contact local movers in Mount Pleasant to help with all of your moving needs.
• Download Campus Cash Coupons!
• Search for local apartments
• Add your link here