The White House reportedly requested that Google reconsider its decision to keep up the controversial video of Mohammed that sparked protests, and a deadly attack on the US Embassy in Libya, in the United States. But the search giant, which owns and operates YouTube, declined, though it has already taken down the video in Libya, Egypt, Indonesia and India — where it says the video’s content violates local laws. it remains available elsewhere.
The video, titled “The Innocence of Muslims,” depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a philanderer and fraud, deeply offending followers of the Muslim religion, which forbids even depicting Mohammed at all. However, Google told media outlets that the content doesn’t violate its terms of service in the US, so it will stay up.
In this situation, Google is put in the difficult position of trying to avoid contributing to violence — four U.S. Embassy employees were killed in Libya by people angry over the video — while also honoring free speech rights. Typically, Google has only taken down content in response to requests by copyright holders or law enforcement agencies, rather than policing them itself proactively.
The controversy highlights the important role of advertising-supported internet media in significant world events. Twitter, too, found itself in a politically-charged situation this week, finally agreeing to hand over an Occupy protestor’s tweets in response to a judge’s subpoena.