A recent movie published on YouTube, called "the Innocence of Muslims" has sparked outrage and public outcry in several areas of the Middle East and was responsible for the attacking of American embassies in Cairo and Benghazi, the killing of four officials and ongoing anti-US protests in Egypt and Libya.
Because the video does not violate YouTube policies, Google has rejected the notion of removing the video that mocks Islam and depicts the prophet Mohammed as a fraud and philanderer. They have however, decided to temporarily restrict access in these countries.
Similar to the controversy surrounding the Danish political cartoon that depicted the prophet Mohammed in 1995, and the violence that resulted, it should be well established that the Muslim’s regard any depiction of Mohammed blasphemy.
Google said in a statement last Wednesday, "However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt, we have temporarily restricted access in both countries."
This video – which is widely available on the Web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube, Google said in a statement. "However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt, we have temporarily restricted access in both countries."
In a new age where social media can have a direct impact on world events, many similar social companies are facing the same struggle between balancing free speech with legal or ethical concerns.
Given Google’s past track record of protecting free speech, some digital free expression groups have criticized YouTube for censoring the video. Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation stated, "It is extremely unusual for YouTube to block a video in any country without it being a violation of their terms of service or in response to a valid legal complaint."
Much like net debates over net neutrality, censorship, privacy and piracy, this is the latest in an ongoing series of growing pains that the adolescent Internet community must pass through.
With an ever increasingly intermingled global community we must face and pass through these tribulations before a truly equitable solution can be found that will strike a balance between free speech and showing respect for other political or belief systems.
On a more personal note: I have included the video since removed for public consumption. Not because I like or agree with it (at all), but to show others of the garbage that was created that sparked the controversy. Personally, I couldn’t make it past 2 minutes as it was just too painful to watch.