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YouTube was a participant or observer in the following events:
YouTube logo. [Source: YouTube.com]Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asks Google, the parent company of the online video-sharing site YouTube, to “immediately remove content produced by Islamist terrorist organizations” from YouTube and prevent similar content from reappearing. The company refuses Lieberman’s request. Lieberman writes a letter to Eric Schmidt, the CEO and chairman of Google, saying in part that YouTube “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.” Lieberman also asks that Google identify changes it plans to make in YouTube’s community guidelines and delineate exactly what it will do to enforce those guidelines. Lieberman says removing such content ought to be “a straightforward task since so many of the Islamist terrorist organizations brand their material with logos or icons identifying their provenance.” However, YouTube responds by saying that taking such actions is not as simple as Lieberman believes, and refuses to remove any videos from anyone without consideration as to whether the videos are legal, nonviolent, or non-hate speech videos. “While we respect and understand his views, YouTube encourages free speech and defends everyone’s right to express unpopular points of view,” the company says. YouTube has removed a few videos that Lieberman identified last week after determining that the individual videos violated the company’s community guidelines. However, “most of the videos, which did not contain violent or hate speech content, were not removed because they do not violate our Community Guidelines,” the company says. Lieberman’s committee recently released a report that indicated some Islamist terrorist groups used Internet chat rooms, message boards, and Web sites to help recruit and indoctrinate members, and to communicate with one another. Some critics have said that the committee’s report unfairly singles out Muslims as possible extremists. Additionally, civil libertarians and privacy activists speak out against what they see as Lieberman’s attempt to restrain freedom of speech. John Morris of the Center for Democracy and Technology says that Lieberman’s request is a practical impossibility; worse, to have sites such as YouTube pre-screen content would radically change how the Internet is used, he says. “The government can’t get involved in suppressing videos if the content is not illegal.” [Federal Computer Weekly, 5/19/2008; US Senate, 5/19/2008; YouTube, 5/19/2008]
PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, reports on a recent addition to YouTube, the publicly accessible Internet video channel. The YouTube video in question purports to show a videotape of President Obama admitting that he is not an American citizen. An email containing the YouTube link reads in part: “Obama admits he is not a citizen—read before this is pulled. Unbelievable!!!!!… Why has he not been impeached?… The amazing part of this travesty is Americans continue allowing themselves to be ruled by an illegal alien.” The 11-minute video, online since May 2 (and still available as of April 2011), is titled, “Not Natural Born—TRUTH MATTERS.” The video begins with a 30-second clip showing Obama speaking before an audience. In the clip, which begins in mid-sentence, Obama is heard saying: “… that maybe I’m not an American citizen. Some people said he has a forged birth certificate. Well, first of all, it’s true I’m not an American. I was not born in Hawaii. I wasn’t born in the United States of America. I come from Kenya.” PolitiFact quickly determines that Obama’s voice has been badly edited, writing: “The volume and sound quality of his voice change at key points, such as between ‘it’s true I’m not’ and ‘an American.’ The video never shows his lips where he makes his key admissions, so you can’t see if his lips are in sync with what he’s saying. And his audience offers no reaction to what should be a stunning admission.” The video comes from a Web site called “obamasnippets.com,” which advertises itself as a source for YouTube humor videos that contain videos of Obama edited and altered for satirical purposes. The “obamasnippets” channel notes: “This is not ‘political.’ This is just for fun. This is not an ‘anti-Obama’ site. This is not a ‘pro-Obama’ site. This is an ‘Obama humor’ site.… All snippets made with 100 percent Obama’s voice. No imitations! (That would be too easy.)” The video as posted on “obamasnippets” is called “Birthers’ Delight—Part 1” and includes a disclaimer indicating that it is a spoof. However, the “Truth Matters” video has stripped off the disclaimer and added background music, “perhaps in an attempt to disguise the telltale signs of editing,” PolitiFact observes. The video receives over a million viewings on YouTube by August 4. PolitiFact dismisses it as a clumsy fraud. [St. Petersburg Times, 8/3/2010]
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