YouTube Blocks Anti-Islamic Film At The Request Of King Abdullah
Following the release of a controversial movie, several people died during protests against it, as it places Prophet Muhammad in negative light. Now, YouTube has completely blocked the film – Innocence of Muslims – in Saudi Arabia at the demand of Saudi ruler King Abdullah.
The country’s government threatened to block YouTube throughout the entire territory if they refuse to disrupt access to the aforementioned movie.
At first, YouTube was approached by the White House with a request to block “Innocence of Muslims”, but refused. Then, the film couldn’t be accessed anymore by Libya, Egypt, Indonesia and India – all countries where the material was considered illegal.
An official statement from King Abdullah stated that YouTube is going to be blocked in Saudi Arabia if Google doesn’t agree to remove the movie’s links.
Furthermore, the country’s Communications and Information Technology Commission asked for the help of Saudi citizens to help censoring this movie by reporting any remaining links.
“This is considered a duty imposed by our true religion on every Muslim, necessitating the prevention of any blaspheming reports to our Prophet (peace be upon him) and to our true religion,” a statement made through the state press agency SPA was made.
Not surprisingly, Russia’s government has also joined the cause of removing the movie. At the moment, a Russian court of law is trying to decide whether the material can be considered as “extremist” or not; this could be a close call for Google’s YouTube on Russian territory as well.
“It sounds like a joke, but because of this video… all of YouTube could be blocked throughout Russia,” Minister Nikolai Nikiforov wrote on Twitter.
“If there is a court decision and YouTube does not take off the video, then access will be limited.”
Jim Killock, an executive director at the ORG (Open Rights Group), criticized the ban, calling it “an extreme and disproportionate response”.
“This is an extremely strange case – we have one individual’s take being characterised as the position of the US government for political purposes and we really need to have a real discussion of why that is taking place and whether it is ever reasonable,” he told the BBC.
“But the companies involved should resist such requests, except when ultimately they will obey national laws and that is completely reasonable.”
On the other side of the story, a YouTube representative said:
“We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere.”
“This video – which is widely available on the web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, we’ve restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal such as India and Indonesia as well as in Libya and Egypt given the very sensitive situations in these two countries.”
“This approach is entirely consistent with principles we first laid out in 2007.”
Rachel Whetstone – Google’s Director of Global Communications and Public Affairs for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa – blogged about this issue, saying that Google was not “the arbiter of what does and does not appear on the web”.
“We try to take into account local cultures and needs – which vary dramatically around the world – when developing and implementing our global product policies,” she said.
“Dealing with controversial content is one of the biggest challenges we face as a company.”