Lieberman vs. YouTube Over Terrorism

Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) believes the latest safe harbor for terrorisms is…YouTube. The senator fired off a letter (and a press release) to Google CEO Eric Schmidt calling on YouTube to pull all content produced by terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. From his letter:

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.

YouTube was quick to respond on its blog and said after looking at videos identified by Sen. Lieberman’s staff, a “number” of videos were removed, but mainly because they depicted “gratuitous violence, advocated violence, or used hate speech.” Most the videos, which did not meet these criteria, were not removed as they didn’t violate Google’s community guidelines. From YouTube’s response:

While we respect and understand [Lieberman’s] views, 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.

This isn’t the first time YouTube has been at the center of the violence vs. free speech debate. YouTube Co-founder Steve Chen said earlier this year that while violent videos are the site are bad, he prefers to let the community police itself. And more recently, the New York state senate introduced legislation that would make it a felony to commit violence for display on Internet sites.