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Kings, Religion, and Laws vs. YouTube
By: Caitlin Quarles
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Could one man’s movie be the demise of YouTube in at least five countries? Possibly.

King Abdullah, the ruler of Saudi Arabia (a predominantly Muslim country, with nearly 100 percent of its population Muslim and the burial ground of the prophet Muhammad), has steadfastly demanded that YouTube (owned by Google) remove the controversial film The Innocence of Muslims from its site. YouTube refused, but did block the video from viewers in Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah says that unless the film is removed completely from the site, access to the entire YouTube site will be blocked by the government. Saudi Arabia joins Libya, Egypt, India and Indonesia in countries where the “illegal” video has been banned.

Curiously enough, Russia, who lately is no stranger to infringing on its citizens personal freedoms, has announced that because this film could be considered “extremist;” if it's not removed and/or blocked on YouTube, the entire YouTube site will be banned in all of Russia. This stems in part from new laws in the country in which “digital content deemed damaging to children would be put on a nationwide blacklist and blocked by all Internet service providers in the country without the requirement of a court order.” Protecting children’s innocent eyes and ears from the dark corners of the Internet is wise, but when right vs. wrong is subjective (free speech, political satire, etc), things get a little hairy.

YouTube has quite the predicament on its hands: restrict access to the video in countries whose leaders deem it “offensive,” therefore preventing citizens from seeing it without any say of their own; remove the video completely, therefore preventing citizens from seeing it and making decisions on their own; putting an 18+ restriction on it, which makes too much sense, but is also easily circumvented; or doing absolutely nothing and finding that all hell has broken loose and that they are being held responsible for it.

In the digital age, where do we draw the line of who is to blame for content appearing on the internet? Surely, the director of the film should be held more accountable for this film than the medium he displayed it on, but YouTube is an easier target because of its size, its ability to be located, and because so many utilize it and rely on it on a daily basis.

I am not advocating that this film, which was made under extremely dubious circumstances, is groundbreaking or accurate in any way, nor that the reactions and lives lost due to the production of this film are inconsequential; merely that the government’s control over media and digital content is far more present than we may realize.

What do you think YouTube should do in this situation?

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About the Author
Caitlin Quarles is the founder and owner of CEQ Consulting, a freelance editorial company based in Pennsylvania. Traveling, cheese, and dogs make her happy. Find her online here.
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