“The Innocence of Muslims”, a short 14 minute film described as “anti-Islamic”, has been causing a storm of rage over the Internet for the past week. The video, which mocks the Prophet Muhammad and portrays Muslims as looters and murderers, was uploaded to YouTube in July, with Arabic translations being made in September. On 11 September 2012 violent protests against the film and its American creators spread across the Middle East and Africa, including in Egypt, Yemen, and Niger. American and British flags were burnt, and Christian places of worship were ransacked. In Libya, gunmen stormed the US embassy, killing four diplomats, Other, peaceful protests, occurred across Europe and in Canada, Sudan, and Bangladesh.
Google (who owns YouTube) responded by blocking access to YouTube in Egypt and Libya. Although not required to do so by law, the search giant said it took the decision after the deaths in Libya. This action was followed by further blocks in Indonesia, India, and Malaysia. In India and possibly Malaysia, this was the result of a court order. The video itself however, remains on YouTube and is easy to find using Google.
The video, the blocking, and Google’s refusal to delete it from YouTube, raise fundamental ITGS issues related to freedom of speech, cultural diversity, and appropriate use of the Internet.In class next week we will be looking at who can block Internet content and the methods they can use, and we will discuss the circumstances in which it is appropriate to block content.