Google and International Freedom of Speech- The Middle East

Recently, in response to the killings of four American diplomatic personnel in Libya, Google decided, in an unorthodox move to censor an inflammatory anti-Muslim video surfacing on the Internet, blocking it in both Egypt and Libya. The video surfaced on YouTube, and is said to be ridiculing the prophet Muhammad. Google claimed, that this move was incredibly unusual and was purely provoked by the exceptional circumstances. The video was a catalyst to outrage over the Muslim world from Afghanistan to Libya with the populace calling on the United States to take actions against the video’s producers. While the overarching question comes into play regarding freedom of speech, and whether or not Google was in the right to actually block the video. The fact remains that they have steadfastly stood by keeping up multiple questionable and offensive posts and videos.

Regardless, the reason I even chose to bring up the article was more closely related to its ties to globalization and its connections to the digital divide. First off, I find it quite incredible that an American-run company that essentially controls the Internet in itself is able to control how information is dispersed and specifically what facts and what information is getting to each specific country. It furthermore shows that the birth of the Internet and its integration into society from all walks of life throughout the world has practically made the world a much smaller place. That while there is the more obvious digital divide in directly in some places based on the juxtaposition of those who have technology and those who don’t, an even greater digital divide can be seen on a grander scale: those who control the technology and those who don’t. It brings into question the international scale of freedom of speech, and the increased role of technology, and whether or not a new scale of law is in order, for the sake of protecting everyone’s natural rights.


2 responses to “Google and International Freedom of Speech- The Middle East

  • nslondon

    I find this article, and this issue in general, to be extremely interesting. I think the question of freedom of speech in regards to Google’s censorship of the video is an important one, but what is most fascinating to me is how this video spread like wildfire even though Google tried to prevent it – people found it on YouTube instead! And this didn’t happen in a developed country like ours where internet access is a staple in most households – access to internet may be limited in many of these areas where locals were enraged by this video online. I like what you said about the internet making the world a smaller place! I think that while it’s important to discuss and address this gap between those that control modern technology, like Google, and those that don’t, the fact that this video could be blocked by Google yet still be accessible enough to incite such violent protest would lead me to believe that information cannot truly be stifled in this day and age, even by such a power player as Google.

  • cobykg

    An additional area of contention is that the film actually does not violate Google’s regulation policies. While the video was taken down on Google, Google Inc. (owner of YouTube) has only restricted access to the film in Egypt, Libya, India and Indonesia on YouTube. The company has decided not to block the film entirely.

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