While the Internet has long been the battleground for opposing ideas, the most recent series of bloody protests has, once again, placed Google in the spotlight, forced to weigh the western value of free speech against Islam’s strict laws regarding blasphemy, at least as far as their own religion is concerned.
The company has confirmed today that it has “temporarily” blocked YouTube users in Libya and Egypt from accessing the 14-minute trailer for the anti-Muslim film, titled “Innocence of Muslims.”
The film, which was reportedly produced and directed by a man going by the name of Sam Bacile, depicts the prophet Mohammed as a philanderer who approves of the sexual abuse of children.
The restrictions come less than a day after the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans, were killed in a bloody attack by Muslim protesters on the U.S. diplomatic mission in the country. Protesters also stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo, and the wave of unrest continues to spread into Yemen, where protesters similarly ripped down and torched the embassy’s American flag.
While the controversial film is poor justification for the deadly wave of violence, protesters are nonetheless using it a convenient excuse.
U.S. officials told CBS News that the assault was well executed, and in all likelihood, premeditated.
Officials suspect the attackers are either associated with or sympathize with al Qaeda and that they took advantage of a demonstration sparked by the film to launch their assault on the anniversary of 9/11, CBS news reported.
Nonetheless, YouTube, which is owned by Google Inc., issued a statement saying, “We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions.”
“This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video – which is widely available on the web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries. Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered in yesterday’s attack in Libya,” the statement read.
Recently, a 14-year-old Christian girl with Down’s Syndrome faced a death sentence in Pakistan after she had been accused of burning pages of the Koran.
Rimsha Masih has been held for a little over three weeks after she had been accused of violating the country's strict blasphemy law.
While she was eventually granted bail, Masih’s case is merely one of many that demonstrate the authoritarian system of government in many Muslim countries.