There are plenty of examples of YouTube aiding law enforcement in catching criminals, but the site has benefit for folks on either side of the law. Human rights lawyer Andrew K. Woods has an interesting article at Slate on what he calls the "YouTube Defense". Basically, lawyers understand that judges are inevitably swayed by public opinion when making rulings, even if theoretically they're supposed to be impervious to political pressure. For lawyers representing unpopular defendants, such as many of the individuals currently held at Guantanamo, the challenge is in raising public awareness about people that may be wrongly held. For this purpose, YouTube has become a useful tool. In the case of one incarcerated individual, a Sudanese elementary school teacher, a five-minute online video made by his supporters helped raise his profile and get him on a list of people slated to be released. In a way, though, what's interesting about this case is its banality. There's are very few uses of YouTube that would elicit much surprise anymore. Compare this to the attitude towards online video in 1999, when controversial weight-loss drug maker Metabolife took the then-unprecedented step of posting a full video online of an interview that its CEO had done with Dateline. The company's thinking was that it didn't want Dateline to manipulate the CEO's words, and it wanted to get its message heard in the court of public opinion, without editing. Then, there was a lot of controversy about this move, and some speculated that small companies that couldn't afford to post video online would be hurt if this became a common thing. Now, of course, with YouTube, anyone can post videos online, and the act of doing so is fairly uncontroversial, even if it's to support a Guantanamo detainee.
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