Reader’s comment

We regularly highlight comments that have made an impression on us. Today’s comes from user Martinned responding to Brian Pellot’s discussion piece on the Innocence of Muslims controversy.

Responding to Brian Pellot’s article on Google preemptively censoring the Innocence of Muslims video in Egypt and Libya, user Martinned wrote:

“I think the best way to think about this to analogise from the law on on-line torts. Most countries have so-called “safe-harbour” provisions that protect internet service providers and other companies, including Youtube, from getting sued, as long as they respond to valid takedown notices and – and this is important here – as long as they have no actual control over their content. The more the website shapes what people write, the more likely it is that they can be sued. (There is a famous case about discrimination on Craigslist, in the housing section.)

This is an approach that makes sense. If a company voluntarily takes on the task to censor and shape what is written on its website, people should be able to sue it, but they should be able to opt-out of that responsibility in those cases where the volume of traffic, etc. is such that they cannot reasonably be asked to filter everything that is written/posted.

Applying this to the present controversy, the answer is that Youtube should be asked to follow its own terms of usage, which is in fact what the US government has done. The content of those terms of use, however, are none of the government’s business. As it happens, they are already much too restrictive for my taste, banning all sorts of things that puritan Americans don’t want to see, but that is strictly a matter for Youtube to decide. It is not OK to hold them responsible for something that is posted on their website if they haven’t promised in advance that they would filter out such content. In this case, Youtube has declared that this clip is consistent with their terms of use, and that is that.

The result of this approach is that in most cases websites like Youtube and Facebook will become public fora where people can post what they like. And that is all the better. We need such places on the internet. Given that such content is only found by people who actively go looking for it, I really don’t see the problem.”

To read other comments on the Innocence of Muslims controversy and respond to Martinned, click here.

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Comments (10)

Automated machine translations are provided by Google Translate. They should give you a rough idea of what the contributor has said, but cannot be relied on to give an accurate, nuanced translation. Please read them with this in mind.

  1. In order to near ourselves to an abstract line (or rather a grey field), beyond which we would not want to allow an opinion to be expressed, we should probably talk not so much about what we want to be possible in terms of personal free expression. We should talk much more about what we would NEVER want to hear within a framework of free speech, but would have to accept according to the principles developed here.

  2. Like all freedoms, it is limited while one is a child. Of course, your parents are also responsible for whatever mischief you get up to. If you would like to take responsibility for your own bullshit, petition the courts. There is a mechanism for that.

  3. Freedom of Speech is sh*t. Why is it introduced to High Schoolers, when their parents just rip it away from them. Freedom of Speech, does not exist. Life isn’t fair, well wasn’t the 1st Amendment to make it a little more fair? Ha, no, it sucks and is not real.

  4. All those who set themselves above others in a hierarchical society must accept they have a moral duty to respond to any request for a grievance to be addressed not ignored as is a common practice denying the fundamental right to be heard

  5. Re: the 10 draft Principles, I propose or suggest:
    1 We—all people— etc..
    2 How do you define ‘illegitimate’ ?
    3 ‘media’ is a plural term. In any event I dislike it intensely. If it is print medium, let’s say Press, etc. Why only “political life”? Let us add cultural, intellectual, etc.
    8 I suggest that this whole ‘principle’ is irrelevant to Free Expression
    9 Personal slurs are inimical to the spirit of free debate and discussion and should not be tolerated. Moreover thie ‘principle’ contradicts no. 7.
    10 ‘must be’? why not simply ‘are’?

  6. Religija je vrlo licna stvar. Dokle god ne ugrozava ili vredja drugu osobu,svako ima pravo da slavi svoju veru. Sloboda veroispovesti i sloboda izrazavanja su osnovna ljudska prava koja ne treba ogranicavati. Potrebno je samo malo tolerancije.

  7. Всеки може да вярва в каквото си желае и да го изповядва – независимо дали става дума за религия или нещо друго, просто не бива да се натрапва на останалите. В крайна сметка и те имат правото да не вярват в същото.

  8. “We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief”

    Jeg mener det er helt riktig og hvordan situasjoner burde håndeteres men desverre så er det ikke alltid slik folk oppfører seg. Jeg synes det er utrolig viktig å kunne lytte og akseptere andre menneskers meninger og tro selv om man ikke nødvendigvis mener det samme. Hvis man kan akseptere et annets menneskes mening så kan man kanskje forstå hvordan flere mennesker tenker samtidig i steden for å forbli i sin egen lille verden hvor kun din mening eksisterer. Selv har jeg opplevd å bli irritert hvis andre folk tror noe annet enn meg men så lenge jeg får en god begrunnelse for hvorfor den personen sier det han eller hun sier så kan jeg aksepetere deres meninger men samtidig fortsatt tro noe helt annet.

  9. Really it doesn’t matter at all. Sure freedom of religion means that an individual should be allowed to wear the relics of paraphernalia of their deity. However it is one thing to wear and demonstrate you faith it is another issue entirely to for the beliefs or practices of that faith onto another. If one individual is wearing a cross and has in no way shape or form made me feel compromised or inferior because i am not of that religion than what is all the hullabaloo about?

  10. where to comment ?

    “We are all neighbours now. Through the internet and mobile phones, we can reach four billion other people. This offers unprecedented chances for free expression.”

    – we always were neighbours. we realise it and can realise it now

    – we should be able to reach 7 billion. whats the hold up?

    – chances yes, reality ?

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.

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