News: Since May 25, YouTube has been unavailable in Morocco. Some people in Morocco suggest that the government has blocked the site due to videos critical of Morocco’s actions in Western Sahara. But the state owned Internet service provider says it’s just a technical glitch, while the government has no comment. (More)
News: After receiving word that it would be criminally prosecuted in Thailand, YouTube finally caved in. It removed most of the video clips that allegedly made fun of the Thai king, which is a violation of Thai law. (Some of the videos may have already been removed by the poster.) In a letter sent by Google attorneys, YouTube said that 2 clips would remain on the site because “[t]hey appear to be political comments that are critical of both the government and the conduct of foreigners. Because they are political in nature, and not intended insults of His Majesty, we do not see a basis for blocking these videos.” (more)
Analysis: I was surprised YouTube hadn’t complied with the Thai government’s request from the start, since YouTube did so for an earlier request by the Turkish government (see here). Other countries may have more restrictive speech laws than we, so YouTube (like other websites) is put in the position of “censoring” speech in order to operate within those other countries’ laws. That’s the challenge of running a site on the Internet.
Analysis: YouTube’s position seems inconsistent with its removal of a video disparaging the founder of Turkey (story here). I wonder why the Turkish government gets its request honored by YouTube, but not the Thai government?
UPDATE: The offending video was taken down, apparently, by the person who posted it. The Thai government, however, is still banning YouTube because there’s a still photo apparently mocking the King that’s still up on YouTube. More here.
News: A Turkish court lifted its ban on access to YouTube in Turkey after YouTube removed the videos, apparently posted by Greek users of YouTube, that had depicted or insulted the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as a homosexual. According to a Southeast European Times article, “Under Turkish law, it is forbidden to ‘insult Turkishness’ or to slander Ataturk, whose name means ‘Father of the Turks.'”
“‘The internet is an international phenomenon, and while technology can bring great opportunity and access to information globally, it can also present new and unique cultural challenges,’ YouTube said in a statement after the ban was imposed. ‘We respect the authorities in Turkey and are committed to working with them to resolve this. We should note, however, that the video in question is no longer on the site.'”
Analysis: The international dimensions of this dispute make this a difficult case. Obviously, in the U.S., where we have the freedom of speech, name calling and mere insults (absent defamation or a very hard to prove category of “fighting words”) are protected under the First Amendment. In Turkey, however, that appears not to be the case, at least when the target of the derision is the Ataturk. Because YouTube is available on the Internet around the globe, it will face challenges in implementing a consistent policy on allowing or removing certain clips that some may view as offensive. For example, just last week, Ann Coulter not so subtly referred to presidential candidate John Edwards as a “faggot,” and that video is still available on YouTube. In some respects, having the video available for public scrutiny seems like a better antidote here to Coulter’s slur because the video exposes Coulter in a way that a written news report could not.
News: A court in Turkey ordered the ban of YouTube in Turkey, apparently because some Greeks and Turkish people have been trading insults on video on YouTube. According to the Times Online, “Greek videos reportedly accused the founding president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, of homosexuality; a Turkish user responded by calling Greece the birthplace of homosexuality. It is illegal to criticise either Ataturk or Turkishness in Turkey and the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul acted despite YouTube’s agreement to take down the offending videos.” Turk Telecom, a state ISP, complied with the court order and shut down access to YouTube throughout Turkey.
News: New York Times writer Virginia Heffernan writes on her wonderful Screens blog about an allegation by Michelle Malkin that YouTube may have removed one of her videos from YouTube because of Malkin’s politically conservative views.
Analysis: I haven’t seen the video of Malkin’s that was removed, so I have no way to evaluate her allegation. Generally, though, I’m not into conspiracy theories, so I find it hard to believe that YouTube — with only 60 employees who are scrambling for their busy lives — has some left-wing conspiracy going on.
Malkin’s current video above is pretty slick, I should add, and I enjoyed watching it.