YouTube Bans Terrorism Videos; Don't You Feel Much Safer?

from the I-know-I-don't dept

Back in May we wrote about Senator Joseph Lieberman demanding that YouTube remove a bunch of videos of terrorists. At the time, YouTube reviewed the videos in question, and took down the ones that violated the site's terms of service, but left most of them up, noting that the ones they left up did not promote hate speech nor show violence. As we pointed out at the time, trying to ban terrorists from posting videos to YouTube seems incredibly short-sighted. First, it won't work. Those videos will quickly pop back up on other sites that won't take them down. Second, most of those videos are preaching to the choir. It's unlikely that very many people are being recruited to the terrorists' causes by a grainy video on YouTube. Third, letting terrorists post their videos to a mainstream site like YouTube should help authorities figure out who's posting the videos and where they're coming from. Fourth, and most important, one of the key founding principles of this country is the right to free speech, no matter how much one might disagree with that speech. But, part of that principle is that it allows people to respond. So, yes, the videos may be pure propaganda, but there's no reason that people can't respond to the videos and show why they're propaganda and wrong. Confronting your critics is a reasonable stance. Demanding that they cannot speak is not.

Yet, a bunch of folks have been sending in links to a story claiming that Google has now caved to Sen. Lieberman, and will now ban terrorist videos on YouTube. The article says that YouTube's new terms of service will ban footage that "advertises" terrorism or "extremist causes," which seems pretty broad, and certainly open to abuse. The article describes some videos that show how to commit violent acts -- but those were already banned by YouTube, so that's rather misleading. These new terms are more disturbing. It's not going to stop the videos, it's just going to make it harder to keep track of them, harder to counter them -- all while making the terrorists feel more legitimate.

Terrorists should be tracked down and stopped -- absolutely. But we should be dealing with the actual problem of terrorists, not some videos they made.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    identicon
    Osama is dead, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 5:15pm

    YouTube Bans Terrorism Videos

    The terrorists have won

     

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    Lucretious, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 5:33pm

    Liebermann has always been a grandstanding jackass. None of this surprises me in the least.

     

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    Dave, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 5:40pm

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding but...

    Do the new terms of reference mean that Leiberman's re-election videos are now banned from Youtube?

     

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      Havok, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 8:35am

      Re: Maybe I'm misunderstanding but...

      ROTF - Hey, us Canucks have an election coming up now in OCtober or November - does that mean that all campaign videos will be banned as well??

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 5:42pm

    Oops! an error-
    "will now band" should be "Will now ban" perhaps?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 6:14pm

    Yes we have the right to free speech, but as odd as it may sound the consitution does impose a limit on how free - free speech can be. In essense, you have the right to say what you want so long as what you say does not infringe on, impose on, slander or harm (or show the intent) to harm others. its one of those rules that is implied in the language rather than explicitly written. For too long, we in the USA have been misled to believe we actually have totally 100% freedom to say what we want, when we want, where we want and about anything or anyone we want. That is not the case although compared to EVERY other nation on the globe, we are more free to exercise our opinions than the rest. Maybe that's why we have been so misled. Secondly, youtube (Google) being a private company can post or remove anything it sees fit seeing as though once uploaded the content become their property.

    If someone came and posted a sign in my yard, that sign becomes my property and I have the right to take it down regardless of whether the public thought it should stay up.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 6:41pm

      Re:

      Yes we have the right to free speech, but as odd as it may sound the consitution does impose a limit on how free - free speech can be. In essense, you have the right to say what you want so long as what you say does not infringe on, impose on, slander or harm (or show the intent) to harm others.

      These precedents were defined after the original defining document- Bill of Rights, *NOT* the Constitution as you referenced.

      For too long, we in the USA have been misled to believe we actually have totally 100% freedom to say what we want, when we want, where we want and about anything or anyone we want.

      Huh? I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

      That is not the case although compared to EVERY other nation on the globe, we are more free to exercise our opinions than the rest.

      Isn't Democracy Grand?

      Maybe that's why we have been so misled. Secondly, youtube (Google) being a private company can post or remove anything it sees fit seeing as though once uploaded the content become their property.

      I agree and that is a problem because it limits free speech. The problem is that the Government doesn't prosecute, or publicly mame Businesses anymore, so the only law that matters seems to be Business Law. It's called DEREGULATION. Enron anyone? How did that go on for so long without checks? So we got Sarbanes Oxley out of that, but the problem didn't go away- how about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Problem is that the government departments in charge of protecting consumers and citizens haven't had budgets to maintain current workload.

       

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      haemerd, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 4:09pm

      Re:

      yes! i agree completely.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 9:06am

      Re:

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

      Now where, exactly, does the CONSTITUTION impose any limit on how "free" free speech can be? Either impliedly or explicitly?

      Article 1 gives the LEGISLATURE the authority to make laws which regulate things, including free speech, so long as the right of free speech, expression, etc., is not abridged.

      And Article 3 gives the judiciary the right to declare those laws unconstitutional, given standing and justiciability.

      Don't attempt to foster a Constitutional argument unless you know what you're talking about. There's a REASON the First Amendment is FIRST.

       

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    Ima Fish, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 6:15pm

    I certainly hope YouTube bans anti-terrorist videos too. It'd be pretty easy for a terrorist to watch one of those and simply do the opposite.

     

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    Justin, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 6:15pm

    Sen. Lieberman is just another "extremist"

    Very bad decision, but not unexpected. Free speech is important and it's sad to see Google being the ones to give in to "extremist causes" like Sen. Lieberman's cause. This country is losing it's free speech due to those crazies that think it's acceptable to take away our rights to "fight terrorism" which is not at all what they are doing.

     

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      Vincent Clement, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 5:03am

      Re: Sen. Lieberman is just another "extremist"

      Bad decision? Perhaps. A free speech issue? Definitely not.

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      The First Amendment says nothing about a private entity or an individual prohibiting or abridging the freedom of speech.

      If the government passed a law that prohibits YouTube from showing terrorist videos, then it becomes a free speech issue.

       

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        Mike (profile), Sep 13th, 2008 @ 11:07am

        Re: Re: Sen. Lieberman is just another "extremist"

        The First Amendment says nothing about a private entity or an individual prohibiting or abridging the freedom of speech.


        That's a good point -- and I had meant to make it clear in my post, but didn't do a very good job of it. I was *not* saying that YouTube's actions were a violation of free speech. My point was that it seemed to go against the very American principle of encouraging open discussions.

        And, considering that this change was made under the threat of legal action from Sen. Lieberman (and the DOJ investigation), I think it's a stretch to claim that this wasn't at the behest of the gov't.

         

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    Jake, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 6:16pm

    I'm honestly kind of conflicted on this. Yes, there's a danger that it will be abused, and it probably won't do much more than force the various crazies using the Internet to solicit murder and incite riots to shell out for their own web-space and maybe a domain name. However, it does raise my opinion of YouTube a little; I firmly believe that platform providers should take reasonable precautions to ensure that their service isn't being used for criminal purposes. I just hope they're not going to rely on this entirely imaginary army of concerned citizens who type keywords like 'happy slapping' or 'jihad' into the search box just so they can report anyone violating YouTube's terms of service.
    And frankly, I feel like my home country's about another five million layoffs and another five percent on the rate of inflation from descending into anarchy or fascism. Anything that might make it even a little bit harder for some nutjob to nudge us in that direction looks pretty good to me right now.

     

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      XgeX, Sep 14th, 2008 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      Jake, you are missing the real danger. If they allow the videos it will have an effect similar to free speech laws in the US. People will develop the mental muscle to question and refute what they see on the web. People will read the counter replies in the posts and see that other opinions which they may not have considered exist, for instance the terrible destructive effects of terrorism and the non-existent constructive effects of terrorism. The population will educate itself, as it naturally tends to do.

      If, on the other hand, you rely on the government to police erroneous, malicious or destructive thinking then you are obliged to return to them when new and unanticipated thinking arises. On the web this can be overnight. Furthermore, you subordinate all future ideas to what governmental committees deem acceptable.

      But it's really the loss of critical thinking, the first step, that is so damaging. Are we really prepared to give all that up just for a few thousand extremist terrorists? I see a whole lot of crap on the internet, no surprise if you just look at the world that spawned it, lot of crap there too, but the most encouraging development on the internet is critical thinking and debate. If we stop discussing the rights and wrongs of terrorism, people will forget.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 6:25pm

    Free Speech? Inciting crime is not covered under free speech.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:21am

      Re:

      "Free Speech? Inciting crime is not covered under free speech."

      Was the BBC inciting crime when it showed video of the Ruwanden genocide? I kinda thought they were trying to inform people and maybe even raise awareness? Silly me . . . showing something is NOT a tacit endorsement of it, come on, use your brain.

       

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    Nemo Inconditus, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 7:58pm

    Re: Annonymous Coward

    Hello? Might I remind you that America is not and never has been a democracy!...It is a Federation of REPUBLICS!(res publica,ltn) Hence the term Federal Government. As to the free speech thing...I agree with Mike on this one. Free speech is the primary reason why the internet is exploding! It is a forum where anyone with a computer and access can have a say. The government should stay focused on things it CAN control. Making laws that can't be enforced and exerting pressure on a fluid situation just causes people to lose their respect for it's function. It's similar to a lot of the 'don't use the cell phone while driving' laws floating around. People are still going to do it.

     

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      Vincent Clement, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 5:07am

      Re: Re: Annonymous Coward

      No law was passed that prohibited YouTube from showing 'terrorist' videos, so this has nothing to do with government and has absolutely nothing to do with free speech. Google may have taken a pro-active approach given the possibility of Justice Department investigation, but it was a voluntary, not a forced, decision.

       

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    jFive, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 2:04am

    The USA is an oligarchy

     

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    Robert Martin, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 3:15am

    Free Speech

    ""Problem is that the government departments in charge of protecting consumers and citizens haven't had budgets to maintain current workload.""

    Ah Yeah, I want more of my money going to Washington, they have such a great track record of spending it wisely"

    I don't plan on the government helping to protect me. And if you do, you will be sorely disappointed!!

     

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    TS.Atomic, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 4:50am

    Serious Question...

    Those who disagree with YouTube's decision to ban extremist jihad type of content: Can you imagine *any* "speech" (any content or form available to, or performed in public) that you would personally consider to be so offensive/hateful/malicious (or whatever) that it would be reasonable and prudent to restrict or ban?

     

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      Mike (profile), Sep 13th, 2008 @ 11:09am

      Re: Serious Question...

      Can you imagine *any* "speech" (any content or form available to, or performed in public) that you would personally consider to be so offensive/hateful/malicious (or whatever) that it would be reasonable and prudent to restrict or ban?

      Yes, absolutely. I have no problem with YouTube banning pornography or hate speech.

      What I have a problem with is the gov't putting pressure on YouTube to ban videos based on WHO uploaded them, and NOT the content of the videos.

       

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        DennisSC, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 5:05pm

        Re: Re: Serious Question...

        Mike just hit the nail on the head. This is not, strictly speaking, a constitutional issue but it is a sort of end run around the spirit of the constitution (the Bill of Rights is part of the constitution by the way, as it is the first ten amendments to i). It's similar in a way to how political pressure led to the creation of fairly draconian censorship practices in both the film industry under the Hays Code and the comic book industry under the Comics Code authority. These were not mere limitations on sex and violence, but were definitely political censorship.

        (There were rules against showing authority figures, such as policemen, in a negative light, portraying "miscegenation," etc.)

        Videos by terrorists and hate groups, for example, might be in another category, I admit -- but still, I don't see how banning this stuff makes us one bit safer. It only makes it harder for authorities and the rest of us to keep tabs on these people.

         

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        TS.Atomic, Sep 14th, 2008 @ 6:33am

        Re: Re: Serious Question...

        And, if someone else has a problem with you putting pressure (as a consumer) on YouTube to ban pornography and hate speech as you define it?

        The point being -- if everyone has a different opinion, then *everyone* is forced to tolerate the lowest common denominator, in the interest of "fairness".

        That results in the current situation -- the country is split between the two major political identities (Liberal & Conservative) who are *constantly* at each others throats in any and all venues.

        Impasse.

        You may think a crucifix in a jar of urine is fine art. I don't. You may not have a problem with the banning of pornography and hate-speech - as long as it fits your description. Sen. Lieberman clearly defines Jihadist videos on YouTube as hate-speech. Apparently, you don't.

        If neither of us agree on the definition, then we will both have to tolerate the lowest common denominator.

        If you don't want to be stuck with "My" lowest common denominator and I don't want to be stuck with "yours", then the public, as a group, will have to elect some folks to represent us and argue those decisions for us.

        Except, with the country split down the middle, that model tends to be less that satisfying to half the popluation with each decision reached.

        So, the squeakiest wheel gets greased (assisted by special interest groups). I can't blame YouTube for placing more weight on Lieberman's request than yours or mine -- he can cause them grief faster/bigger than we can.

        If we don't like it, we can always pester another congress-critter to request YouTube reverse their decision in the interest of supporting "Free-Speech".

        Otherwise, like about half the population does with every decision won by the "other side", all we get is bitching rights.

        Still beats the hell out of living under most any other govt I can think of. Opinions will certainly vary...

         

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          Mike (profile), Sep 14th, 2008 @ 7:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: Serious Question...

          And, if someone else has a problem with you putting pressure (as a consumer) on YouTube to ban pornography and hate speech as you define it?

          As a private company, it is YouTube's decision. My problem is with the gov't putting pressure on them.

          The point being -- if everyone has a different opinion, then *everyone* is forced to tolerate the lowest common denominator, in the interest of "fairness".

          Not at all. The problem is with the gov't putting pressure on them. Consumers can do what they want, and the company can do what it wants.

          The rest of your comment is meaningless, because you have set up this false scenario.

           

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            TS.Atomic, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 8:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Serious Question...

            Not at all. The problem is with the gov't putting pressure on them. Consumers can do what they want, and the company can do what it wants

            Then feel free to lobby another entity in the Govt to undo what someone else lobbied the Govt to do.

            One of the main reasons for Govt is to regulate. It never ceases to amaze me when people get a case of the ass because the Govt does something it is tasked with doing.

            Back to my point that with the population's current political/cultural split, any decision made will likely piss off roughly half the country. Perhaps this time it is your turn to get the big bowl of suck. Take heart! With the 50/50 political/cultural split, everyone will get a turn to bitch. Maybe we have finally achieved equality (in suckage) for all!

             

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      John, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 11:07pm

      Re: Serious Question...

      I might agree that some things are wrong to say but I would rather have people saying horrible things then allowing the government or another individual or group determining what is and is not okay to discuss/talk about/show.

       

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    Anon2, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 7:58am

    Actual Youtube Policy

    Instead of talking about characterizations in articles that talk about the new policy, how about taking the refreshing step of actually looking at the new Youtube guideline:

    "While it might not seem fair to say you can’t show something because of what viewers theoretically might do in response, we draw the line at content that’s intended to incite violence or encourage dangerous, illegal activities that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death. This means not posting videos on things like instructional bomb making, ninja assassin training, sniper attacks, videos that train terrorists, or tips on illegal street racing. Any depictions like these should be educational or documentary and shouldn’t be designed to help or encourage others to imitate them."

    First, even though the First Amendment doesn't apply to Youtube's policies, if it did, this would very likely not run afoul of it in the least.

    Second, it's much narrower than how it's being depicted in blog posts (including Techdirt's): it is directed at content that incites, encourages or helps others to engage in dangerous acts that pose an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death.

    There is also a second new policy statement that, from a First Amendment standpoint, I do find more troubling:

    "'Hate speech'" refers to content that promotes hatred against members of a protected group. For instance, racist or sexist content may be considered hate speech. Sometimes there is a fine line between what is and what is not considered hate speech. For instance, it is generally okay to criticize a nation, but not okay to make insulting generalizations about people of a particular nationality."

    Even though the First Amendment does not apply to Youtube, I think this gives it too much discretion to decide what is or is not acceptable speech, and it doesn't seem very narrowly tailored to address the specific issue of terrorist support.

    Moreover, there are other ways to get at speech intended to support terrorism, and the definition in the federal Anti-Terrorism Act, or the one used in the Immigration and Nationalities Act, or the one used in FISA, just to name three examples, would have provided a much narrower basis for evaluating content. If a video for instance did not openly incite others to commit violent acts, but solicited financial support for a known terrorist organization, that is already a felony offense under US law, and Youtube would have ample justification to ban that sort of content from its site.

     

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    Anon2, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 8:04am

    slight correction

    Re: the second Youtube policy I quote, I meant to say "from a free speech perspective," and not "from a First Amendment perspective."

     

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    Clive, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 9:45am

    Does the law apply?

    As the terrorists are not American Citizens nor posting their videos from computers in America then they cannot be protected by the Right to Free Speech as the American laws apply. If it does then anyone in the world can be arrested for any American crime even it is legal in the country where the "crime" was commited.

     

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    steve-a-roonie, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 10:14am

    Critics = Terrorists?
    Where'd we get this guy?

     

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    pc1975, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 10:25am

    Shame

    I don't generally get my opinion from political commentators, but I was sorta indifferent towards this until radio broadcaster Phil Hendrie said something along the lines of these videos have actually inspired Americans to join the military or to be awakened to the true savagery of terrorism, and are more partiotic or at least more appreciative of the liberties of the United States.

    I'd never given it much thought, but to keep any information from people, good or bad is a strike against truth, and ultimately Lieberman did alot more damage than good.

    I had never had a desire to see a hostage beheading video, but the idea of knowing that it was out there really was enough for me to know that these are savage animals who, if Americans can see them for what they are, the good senator Lieberman has nothing to worry about.

    Ultimately, it's youtube's policy, and they are the ones who caved. But it brings up the interesting question...if terrorsts can't post recruitment videos, that means we're all safe from any Westboro Baptist propaganda on there too, right?

     

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    slimcat (profile), Sep 13th, 2008 @ 11:30am

    Cheneyocracy!

    This is just another reason to keep authoritarian conservatives out of office as much as possible. They do not like our Constitution and think nothing of subverting it, nor do they like the separation of powers between the branches of our government and the checks and balances that go with them.

    Two hundred years ago, these people would have been tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail, at the very least.

    Just my two cents worth.

     

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    Mike L, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 4:37pm

    youtube who?

    Lets face it, youtube is where people who don't know any better watch videos on the net. I don't really care if they pull all the violent stuff... liveleak etc... are WAY batter anyway.

     

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    Mary Ellen, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 10:18pm

    Criminals on youtube

    I think we should have a law that all criminals should post videos of their crimes on youtube. If they don't, they get 5 extra years. Why would we want to actually prevent them from posting?

     

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    john, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 10:58pm

    Who decides

    Who decides what is an extremist cause? If we let Republicans decide then any pro-democrat videos would be considered extreme and most likely the opposite would be true as well. Scarier is the idea that somebody posting a video questioning the acts of a politician or a political group could be labeled 'extremist' regardless of the level of truth. But what do you expect from Lieberman, he has always been anti-free-speech just take a look at his record (remember the 90's and his anti-video-game rampage).

     

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    jonnyq, Sep 14th, 2008 @ 2:06pm

    Meh... everyone knows real terrorists communicate with coded comments on random web sites. Monkey pickle taco moose handle golf club pencil stick.

     

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    Brutus Beefcake, Sep 14th, 2008 @ 3:55pm

    As long as

    my koranic defecation videos stay up I'm OK with it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:18am

    It Begins . . .

    You Tube will eventually kill itself with this self imposed, politically correct censorship. On the good side though that means the rest of us have a shot at getting in on the next big thing that comes along to replaces it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:26am

    "While it might not seem fair to say you can’t show something because of what viewers theoretically might do in response, we draw the line at content that’s intended to incite violence or encourage dangerous, illegal activities that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death. This means not posting videos on things like instructional bomb making, ninja assassin training, sniper attacks, videos that train terrorists, or tips on illegal street racing. Any depictions like these should be educational or documentary and shouldn’t be designed to help or encourage others to imitate them."


    Since YouTube has said this is something they want to do, cant we assume its something they feel needs to be done (unless its just censorship for the fun of it). Since YouTube feels this type of censorship needs to be done, wont they be on much more slippery ground next time a kid jumps off a roof . . . cause he saw it on youtube?

     

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    charlie, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:24am

    Bought time we ban those military recruiting ads too. Oh, but we're not terrorists are we?

     

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    Clueby4, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 5:47pm

    I agree, pull all military recruitment videos

    Get rid of military recruitment videos, along with the funding behind them too.

     

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