Sunday, September 23, 2012

Opinions vary on free speech issues with internationally provocative videos, and on "private" censorship

The Los Angeles Times has an important op-ed September 18, “Does ‘Innocence of Muslims’ meet the free-speech test”?  The link is here.

The concept refers to the idea that possibly the film should not even have been published online in the United States, because it could stir up violence overseas that could come back here.  The article suggests that violence within “two weeks” could be considered “Imminent”, and that asymmetry could be seen as increasing the risk. 

On the other hand, the analysis is complicated by the way speech is perceived and manipulated overseas by agitators in an uneducated population.  It’s pretty obvious that much of the violence had been plotted and would have happened anyway, and was simply looking for a trigger or excuse.

It's the immediacy of the possible threats that seems to be the main issue.  Moderate Muslim scholars have been pointing out that it is illogical to expect a faith to be respected around the world and then say it can never be parodied.  But that is a longer term observation. 

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a brief but important perspective September 20 by Jillian C. York, “YouTube’s censorship of anti-Islam video raises numerous questions about online free expression, link here.

EFF points out that the censorship is being carried out by private companies, without the redress of a constitutionally protected review system.  It's a kind of corporate "self-censorship" that we've seen debated  before (as with COPA a few years ago).  But of course private companies must respond to the desires of investors and practical security concerns, as well as the laws of countries overseas.  In a libertarian model, other private companies could come along with more lax standards.  (For example, Facebook is considered stricter in its TOS matters than most other social media companies.)

EFF tweeted this story Friday. 

Check also William Saletan on Slate, "Peace Be Upon You: Internet videos will insult your religion; ignore them", link

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