Google has taken some heat lately over censorship issues. No doubt we’ve all heard by now of the famous “The Innocence of Muslims” video on YouTube that, whether it did or did not cause attacks on our embassies, has been a center of controversy.
It stirs up debate on censorship, so I wanted to offer some thoughts on censorship.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s the whole First Amendment, but if you break it down to an even simpler form…
Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.
That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about censorship. But this isn’t about Congress. This whole issue is about Google and whether or not Google should censor the opinions of its users.
I love censorship. I censor things all the time. If you decide to get obnoxious in comments on this blog, I’ll censor you. I try not to, because I want to encourage debate, but if your comments take away from the debate, yeah, I’ll censor you.
I censor things in my home as well. I censor what TV shows my kids see. I use parental control software to censor what Internet content is available.
Censoring content, whether on my web site or in my home, is my right and my responsibility. The same applies to Google. If something posted to a Google property is inappropriate, Google has a right and a responsibility to censor the content.
Just last week I wrote about the threat of free speech coming under attack. Specifically I was talking about the offensive video recently found on YouTube and Google’s decision to remove the video in countries where it would be most offensive. Here’s what I said:
My concern in all of this is that people will use this instance as a reason to support some measures by which the U.S. government could censor content on Google’s web sites. We should be watching carefully for that type of movement. Censorship, like so many other issues, is best handled by the people, not by government.
Well, it’s happening already. We shouldn’t be shocked. Anyone watching for this would have seen it coming. Pakistani Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, said in a recent CNN interview that the U.S. should “rethink how much freedom is okay.”
It’s easy to understand the sentiment without agreeing with it. The argument is that people shouldn’t be allowed to say or do things that cause other people to go on massive killing sprees. Sure, that’s understandable. Nobody wants to hear reports of violence that erupted because of somebody’s opinion.
But this notion that because people get upset over somebody else’s opinion we should be restricting speech is preposterous!
From Reason.TV, the Obama Administration’s assault on free speech is antithetical to American principles.
Long live the honey badger!
Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
A sign mentioned in the New York Times coverage of the ongoing protests in the Muslim world crystallized a question that had been nagging at the back of my head since the attacks on the American embassies in Libya and Egypt. The sign read: “Shut up America!” and “Obama is the president, so he should have to apologize!”
What a strange non-sequitur, to Western ears! What does the president—or the U.S. government in general—have to do with some crude, rinky-dink YouTube video produced by an apparent con man? Surely, like the overwhelming majority of Americans, Barack Obama would never even have been aware of the trailer for “Innocence of Muslims” if it hadn’t become the bizarre focus of controversy abroad. Even if the video was more catalyst than cause of the outrage, commenters all along have remarked how absurd, almost surreal, it seems that one shoddy YouTube—surely one of many containing harsh criticism of Islam or its prophet—could trigger such a massive reaction. If people hadn’t died, it would be comical.
Funny video from Hugh Atkin:
Earlier this year we fought the battle against SOPA and PIPA, the draconian, Internet altering legislation that was awful for reasons both political and technological. Then there was CISPA, which wasn’t a government takeover of the Internet like SOPA and PIPA, but it put way too much power in the hands of the government.
We suspected that wouldn’t be the end of the fight for freedom online, and we were right. This week Google released another transparency report, showing requests from the second half of 2011 by government entities to have content removed. The scary thing is that much of this falls under the realm of personal expression.
Just looking at examples of requests from within the United States, Google was asked to:
Realizing that Republicans have a target on them due Medicare, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has taken to YouTube to explain why the Medicare system is failing and how his proposal would deal with the significant fiscal headache that the program represents:
As Ryan attempts to convey in his new video, there won’t be a Medicare program for long unless his policies are enacted to “save” it. In fact, Ryan spends the first half of his new five-minute video explainer warning that the program will vanish on its current path.
“The truth is,” Ryan says, standing in the House Budget Committee room on Capitol Hill, “it’s headed for a painful collapse.”
Ryan frames his solution in the “big-government versus the individuals” language of the Tea Party that Republicans hope will continue to resonate with voters in the same way it did during the debates over the Democrats’ healthcare overhaul.
“The urgent need to reform Medicare and the president’s misguided approach have left us with a serious question to ask: Who should be making healthcare decisions for you and your family?” Ryan asks. “A government monopoly and a panel of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.? Or you?”
Here is the video:
Out in California, the Fair Political Practices Commission is looking at regulating new platforms for political speech, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, even text messaging:
It’s become necessary as politicians in California and elsewhere announce their candidacies and major campaign policies through Twitter, YouTube and a host of social networking sites, said FPPC Chairman Dan Schnur.
He said California’s 36-year-old Political Reform Act needs rewriting to keep up with the times.
“Our goal here is to meet the new challenges of 21st Century technology,” Schnur said. “There’s no way that the authors of the act could have anticipated that these of types of communicating a campaign message would ever exist.”
To paraphrase Chief Justice John Roberts, this is why we don’t leave our free speech rights in the hands of FPPC bureaucrats. To bureaucrats like those at the FPPC, the Federal Election Commission or their analogues, there seems to be no need to show any evidence that Twitter, Facebook or text messages actually pose any threat to the public. It is enough that they these new forms of low-cost media aren’t currently regulated, but could be. Their primary concern, apparently, is that the regulation of political speech be as comprehensive as possible.
Conan O’Brien tells the real reason China and India are growing while we remain stagnant: YouTube.
Here is a hilarious YouTube spoof of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a US President who has yet to finish his first year in office.