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article imageAre al-Qaeda Videos Considered 'Free Speech' According to YouTube?

By Susan Duclos     May 20, 2008 in Internet
Senator Joseph Lieberman called on Google's YouTube to remove videos produced by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, showing attacks on U.S. soldiers and civilians. YouTube removed some videos, but refused to remove others, citing "free speech."
Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., is the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman and in a letter sent to Google's YouTube, Lieberman requested that YouTube "remove Internet video content produced by terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda."
Lieberman's letter can be found at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs website and in the letter he points to videos that can be accessed on YouTube that show "assassinations, deaths of U.S. soldiers and civilians, weapons training, incendiary speeches by al-Qaeda leadership, and other material intended to encourage violence against the West."
He also asserts that the videos hold the al-Qaeda logo to identify them and he called on Google to "to enforce its own community standards against videos that show gratuitous violence or people getting “hurt, attacked, or humiliated.”
The letter also points out that terror groups use YouTube to "disseminate their propaganda, enlist followers, and provide weapons training".
In other words, Islamist terrorist organizations use YouTube to disseminate their propaganda, enlist followers, and provide weapons training – activities that are all essential to terrorist activity. According to testimony received by our Committee, the online content produced by al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist organizations can play a significant role in the process of radicalization, the end point of which is the planning and execution of a terrorist attack. YouTube also, unwittingly, permits Islamist terrorist groups to maintain an active, pervasive, and amplified voice, despite military setbacks or successful operations by the law enforcement and intelligence communities.
For readers unaware of who and what al-Qaeda is: Al-Qaeda has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General, the Commission of the European Communities of the European Union, the United States Department of State, the Australian Government, Public Safety Canada, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan's Diplomatic Bluebook, South Korean Foreign Ministry, the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service,] the United Kingdom Home Office, Pakistan, Russia,] the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs,and the Swiss Government. (Reference)
Al-Qaeda's most notable recent attack was on September 11, 2001, when, in a series of coordinated suicide attacks, al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners, intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City, resulting in the collapse of both buildings soon afterward and extensive damage to nearby buildings. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania after passengers and members of the flight crew on the fourth aircraft attempted to retake control of their plane.
2,974 people died as an immediate result of the attacks with another 24 missing and presumed dead, excluding the hijackers themselves.
In Google's response to Senator Lieberman's concerns, they issued a statement on their YouTube page, saying that some of the videos that Senator Lieberman's staff highlighted did violate their terms of service and had been removed but refused to remove the other videos, saying that "YouTube encourages free speech and defends everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. We believe that YouTube is a richer and more relevant platform for users precisely because it hosts a diverse range of views, and rather than stifle debate we allow our users to view all acceptable content and make up their own minds. Of course, users are always free to express their disagreement with a particular video on the site, by leaving comments or their own response video. That debate is healthy."
WHIR News reports that Lieberman found Google's response "unsatisfactory" and that there is "speculation that he may be seeking the means to more forcefully encourage Google to police YouTube content by way of legislation."
This exchange between Senator Lieberman and Google leaves us with the question of whether al-Qeada videos, identified with the al-Qaeda logo, is protected under "free speech" rights?
Do organizations that have been listed across the world as terror groups enjoy the protections of free speech, via video, according to Google?
More about Joseph lieberman, YouTube, Google