YouTube is one of the most powerful and most accessible websites in the entire world. With billions of videos being watched and uploaded daily, YouTube has the insurmountable task to monitor this massive network of communication. With breaking news last night and coverage carrying on all day today, most know of the attacks in Libya. While not all of the information is out for public consumption, there have been numerous reports that a small video, available on YouTube and viewed by a large group of Muslims may have incited the terrible actions that took place.
The video called, Innocence of Muslims, portrays the Prophet Muhammad in very disparaging terms, a slight that most Muslims take extremely seriously. In an effort to mitigate the situation YouTube, has decided to ban that video from its viewers in Egypt and Libya. The video is still available in the most countries including the United States. In a statement to the associated press, YouTube 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, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries. Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered in yesterday’s attack in Libya.”
Even with the possible connections with the attacks in Libya many internet advocates disagree with YouTube’s stance to ban the video in those two countries. As they stated in their statement, the video does stay within the company’s guidelines. What some view as censorship others view as common sense. It is just another example of how complicated and unforgiving the internet can really be. While online video empowers and entertains the masses, the same venue can be used to incite anger and hate. YouTube is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and this will likely be one of many cases. With great power comes great responsibility, and hopefully YouTube will be able to balance them both effectively.