News: There are several interesting blog posts today about censorship on and by YouTube, as to the controversial videos mocking the Thai King, the German Nazi videos, Al Qaeda recruitment videos, and even videos suspected of copyright infringement. NYT writer Patrick Lyons has one post, which refers to another thoughtful post by Jason Lee Miller.
Miller writes at one point: “If speech on the Internet is determined by terms of service agreements set forth by private companies not only beholden to advertisers, partners and shareholders, but also to international pressures, then there will be no real freedom of speech on the Internet.”
Analysis: Under the U.S. Constitution, there’s really no problem (legally speaking) for YouTube to remove content it deems objectionable. YouTube is not a state actor, so YouTube’s “censorship” of material doesn’t come within the scope of the First Amendment. Private actors can censor, the government can’t. YouTube has every right to decide for itself — or let its community decide — to take down objectionable content, including hate speech videos, pornography, and copyright infringing videos.
The interesting wrinkle comes in when YouTube starts censoring based on compliance with foreign laws or requests by foreign governments, especially foreign laws that would violate our First Amendment if enacted here. At least as a PR matter, it certainly presents YouTube something to think about.