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.

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Companies: google, youtube

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Comments on “YouTube Bans Terrorism Videos; Don't You Feel Much Safer?”

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45 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Justin says:

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.

Vincent Clement says:

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.

Jake says:

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.

XgeX says:

Re: 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.

Nemo Inconditus says:

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.

Vincent Clement says:

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.

Robert Martin says:

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!!

TS.Atomic says:

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?

Anon2 says:

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.

pc1975 says:

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?

slimcat (profile) says:

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.

john says:

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).

Anonymous Coward says:

“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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