YouTube, the user generated video site, has caved in to pressure from Senator Joe Lieberman, so has laid down the law on videos that depict violence and terrorism. A statement on YouTube’s Community Guidelines page announced the changes:
“While it might not seem fair to say you can’t show something because of what viewers theoretically might do in response, we draw the line at content that’s intended to incite violence or encourage dangerous, illegal activities that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death. This means not posting videos on things like instructional bomb making, ninja assassin training, sniper attacks, videos that train terrorists, or tips on illegal street racing.”
Serious stuff. YouTube spokesperson Chris Dale commented on the change, “We at YouTube regularly review our policies and update them if we feel we can do an even better job of communicating with our users or if we find that there is content we feel may not be adequately addressed. As our blog post on the updated Community Guidelines made clear, we’re always trying to keep pace by creating policies that reflect innovative new uses of YouTube and the diverse content posted by users every day.”
Earlier this year, the senator claimed that al-Quaida terrorists and other extremist cells were using YouTube to disseminate training videos and propaganda, encouraging violence against America. At that time, YouTube claimed that due to the sheer volume of content added to the site each day, it was impossible to monitor everything, but it stressed that violent videos were not allowed. Lieberman, however, claimed YouTube kept these violent video on the site, citing the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
“YouTube certainly has a right to set its own terms of service,” John Morris, general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology said “If it wants to prohibit these videos, most of which are not illegal in any sense, it can do so. But this action and Sen. Lieberman’s protests about this kind of video are not going to do anything to keep these videos off the Internet. They are widely available elsewhere.
“As an effort by Sen. Lieberman to suppress these videos, it will be wildly unsuccessful.”
Morris said that not all inflammatory or dangerous speech is constitutionally protected, and most states have laws prohibiting the incitement of violence.
“If I go out on a street corner and yell to passersby that they should go and kill the mayor of my city that would not be illegal speech. Nobody would look at that speech and think I expected people to go do that,” he said. “If I said those exact same words in a meeting of my gang in my city, and I’m a gang leader and I am saying the exact same words in a meeting that’s being called to discuss what our next action is, then that might actually be illegal.”