U.S. Asks Google to Block Video

Journal-isms: Is it the tech company's responsibility to stop the anti-Muslim video from spreading?

Google executive Eric Schmidt (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Google executive Eric Schmidt (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Company Restricts Access Abroad but Not at Home

Google [Inc.] rejected a request by the White House on Friday to reconsider its decision to keep online a controversial YouTube movie clip that has ignited anti-American protests in the Middle East,” Gerry Shih reported for Reuters from San Francisco on Friday.

“The Internet company said it was censoring the video in India and Indonesia after blocking it on Wednesday in Egypt and Libya, where U.S. embassies have been stormed by protestors enraged over depiction of the Prophet Mohammad as a fraud and philanderer.

“On Tuesday, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in a fiery siege on the embassy in Benghazi.

“Google said [it] was further restricting the clip to comply with local law rather than as a response to political pressure.

” ‘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,’ the company said. ‘This approach is entirely consistent with principles we first laid out in 2007.”

“White House officials had asked Google earlier on Friday to reconsider whether the video had violated YouTube’s terms of service. . . . “

Claire Cain Miller reported Thursday for the New York Times that in blocking the video in Libya and Egypt, “Google’s action raises fundamental questions about the control that Internet companies have over online expression. Should the companies themselves decide what standards govern what is seen on the Internet? How consistently should these policies be applied?

” ‘Google is the world’s gatekeeper for information so if Google wants to define the First Amendment to exclude this sort of material then there’s not a lot the rest of the world can do about it,’ said Peter Spiro, a constitutional and international law professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. ‘It makes this episode an even more significant one if Google broadens the block.’