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.

Filed Under: joseph lieberman, propaganda, terrorism, videos
Companies: google, youtube

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  1. identicon
    XgeX, 14 Sep 2008 @ 10:58am


    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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