‘Innocence of Muslims’ and Google: How Google is dealing with government orders

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By Thomas Scott

On September 11, 2012 armed riots broke out in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya and Egypt. This violence soon spread throughout the Islamic world.

America’s ambassador to Libya,  J. Christopher Stevens was killed in the Benghazi attack along with three other Americans.

Yet it was not anger at an autocratic dictator or an oppressive government that provoked this violent outpouring, it was an American made video written and produced by an Egyptian born Coptic-Christian who posted the videos under the pseudonym Sam Bacile.

The film, ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ was released in two poorly edited 14-minute increments on YouTube, which were allegedly trailers for a longer film named Innocence of Bin Laden.

The extended motion picture was allegedly shown to a small audience at a theater in Hollywood in late June.

According to the LA Times, the film had been advertised in Arab World, a newspaper based in Anaheim, California. However, the clips released on Youtube reached a wider audience when they were aired on Egyptian TV on September 9.

As violence spread throughout the Middle East, Google began to block access to the films. Though the videos can still be viewed in the United States, they cannot be viewed in India and Singapore. Google blocked the videos after being requested to do so by the governments of those countries, as well as in Egypt and Libya.

Google has been warned by other nations as well. Russia threatened to prevent its citizens from using Google’s services if the content provider does not remove the video. Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh have already censored parts of the site.

On Monday, an Iranian official remarked that “Google and Gmail [would] be filtered throughout the country until further notice.’ The Iranian government has blocked secure searching, stoking the suspicion among foreign observers that the Islamic Republic is trying to isolate its citizenry from the global community.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or PTI, a party in the Pakistan’s parliament, has put Google “on notice and reserves the right to initiate legal action against the company” according to a press release.

The PTI has also warned that Google’s failure to remove the video could provoke an international incident, particularly in light of the deployment of U.S. Marines to protect the U.S. embassy in Sudan.

Despite all of the violence that has occurred, Google refused a request by the White House to review “whether it violates their terms of use.” Press Secretary Jay Carney continued, remarking “we can nevertheless denounce and condemn expressions of speech that we find offensive, and we have made that clear around the world, as well as here in the United States.”

The government of Afghanistan has also prevented its citizens from accessing the controversial video in the wake of a devastating attack on a NATO airbase in the Southwest of the country that killed two U.S. Marines and destroyed six aircraft worth millions of dollars.

The Taliban claimed that the surprise attack was in response to the release of the video.

Mitt Romney seized the opportunity presented by the crisis to assail President Barack Obama on Monday, criticizing what Obama called a “bump in the road.” On the campaign trail in New Mexico, Romney remarked that he couldn’t “imagine saying something like the assassination of ambassadors [was] a ‘bump in the road.’”

Meanwhile, Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in ‘Innocence of Muslims’ has filed suit against the film’s producer.

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