O video “A inocência dos muçulmanos” acabou com a inocência do YouTube?

Entre no debate sobre o papel que plataformas como You Tube devem ter em relação às reivindicações de liberdade de expressão em seu país, sua língua e no mundo. O editor do LED Brian Pellot dá início ao debate.

O fato de a empresa Google, dona do YouTube, ter espontaneamente bloqueado o acesso ao video islamofóbico “A inocência dos muçulmanos” no Egito e na Líbia gerou um grande debate. Existem váriasversões nacionais do website Google que têm conteúdos bloqueados por ordem dos governos quando os conteúdos claramente infringem as leis locais. A Google restringiu o acesso do video A Inocência dos muçulmanos em países como Jordânia, Arábia Saudita, Índia, Indonésia, Malásia e Singapura sob a mesma justificativa. Contudo, a Google bloqueou o acesso sem que os governos do Egito e da Líbia fizessem qualquer solicitação, tendo como base apenas no que os dirigentes da Google julgaram ser “situações muito delicadas” expressadas em protestos violentos. Tal atitude não tem precedentes e é realmente preocupante.

A proposta de princípio 6 do Liberdade de Expressão em Debate sugere: “Não fazemos ameaças de violência nem tampouco aceitamos intimidações violentas.”  Ostensivamente alimentadas pelo retrato degradante do profeta Maomé no curto filme A inocência dos Muçulmanos, manifestações que acabaram com vítimas fatais em vários países pressionaram os governos, provedores de internet e até a Google a bloquear o acesso ao conteúdo em questão. Ataques violentos são injustificáveis em qualquer circunstância e devem, obviamente, ser repudiados. No entanto, ceder à intimidação violenta também pode ser perigoso.

Dias após o embaixador dos EUA na Líbia, J. Christopher Stevens, ser assassinado em um ataque em Bengasi, supostamente em decorrência dos descontentamentos com o video “A inocência dos muçulmanos”, a Casa Branca e o governo Australiano solicitaram ao Google que reavaliasse se o video estava de acordo com os termos e condições de uso do website, mas tal solicitação foi negada pela Google. A empresa já tinha reavaliado o vídeo e publicamente declarado que o mesmo não infringia as normas do website e não constituía discurso de ódio por não incitar à violência explicitamente. Nenhuma referência sobre incitação à violência é mencionada nas normas dos serviços da Google, mas a página de orientaçõespara a comunidade afirma: “não permitimos discursos ódio (discurso que ataque ou humilhe um determinado grupo por questões de raça, origem étnica, religião, deficiência, gênero, idade, ex-combatente de guerra, e orientação sexual/identidade de gênero)”.

O ilustre acadêmico anglo-americano Robert C. Post, especialista em questões sobre a Primeira Emenda da constituição dos EUA, argumenta de forma certeira que o video em questão não “ataca” nenhum grupo por questões religiosas. No entanto, “A inocência dos muçulmanos” de fato humilha os praticantes da religião e suas fés. Tendo em vista as normas do You Tube, não está claro o porquê de o vídeo não ter sido bloqueado ou ao menos classificado como ofensivo.

O vídeo de um arcebispo argumentando que nenhum judeu morreu em câmaras de gás durante o Holocausto é precedido no You Tube por um aviso: “O conteúdo a seguir foi identificado pela comunidade do You Tube como potencialmente ofensivo  ou inapropriado. Avalie se deseja continuar.”  Esse aviso foi inserido após usuários terem classificado o conteúdo como inapropriado por exibir “conteúdo discriminatório ou abusivo que promove violência ou ódio com base em crença religiosa”. De acordo com apolítica do You Tube para conteúdos de ódio, “se um vídeo marcado como inapropriado por algum usuário não for bloqueado, isso significa que tal conteúdo não infringe nossa política sobre discursos de ódio”. Como muitos usuários classificaram o vídeo como ofensivo e promotor de ódio, fica a dúvida sobre a ausência de um aviso antes do vídeo. Convém, no entanto, notar que vídeos sobre outras religiões podem achar ofensivos tampouco foram bloqueados do You Tube ou classificados como “potencialmente ofensivos”. Cristãos poderiam estar igualmente ofendidos por este vídeo de Jesus cantando a canção I will survive vestido somente com uma fralda e sendo atropelado por um caminhão. Contudo, o vídeo permanece acessível — com mais de milhões de acessos e nenhum aviso de conteúdo ofensivo.

Mais surpreendente do que essas aparentes discrepâncias foi o quase silêncio da Google sobre suas decisões. Até o dia 26 de setembro 2012, duas semanas após a morte do embaixador dos EUA, nenhuma menção ao vídeo “A inocência dos muçulmanos” apareceu no blog oficial, no blog de políticas públicas e noblog oficial do You Tube. No entanto, a empresa deu várias declarações à imprensa.

No dia 15 de setembro, um comunicado foi publicado: “Trabalhamos arduamente para criar uma comunidade que todos possam desfrutar e que sirva de meio para as pessoas se expressarem suas opiniões. Isso é um desafio, pois nem todos os países toleram os mesmos conteúdos. Esse vídeo — que está amplamente disponível na internet — está claramente dentro das nossas normas e permanecerá acessível no You Tube. No entanto, tivemos que bloquear o acesso em países como Índia, Arábia Saudita, Indonésia, por infringirem leis locais, e também em outros países como Líbia e Egito, devido às situações delicadas neste momento. Essa decisão está de acordo com os princípios que definimos em 2007.” Esses princípios mencionam explicitamente os desafios enfrentados pela Google em relação a questões de liberdade de expressão e conteúdos polêmicos na internet. O texto de 2007 também menciona que “a Google não é — e nem deve se tornar — responsável por arbitrar sobre os conteúdos que devem ou não aparecer na internet.” Mas não é justamente o contrário o que a empresa fez quando bloqueou o acesso ao video “A inocência dos muçulmanos” na Líbia e no Egito?

Até o dia 26 de setembro de 2012, pedidos de governos tinham sido recebidos para que a empresa reavaliasse ou bloqueasse o acesso ao vídeo em 21 países, incluindo os já mencionados. Em Paquistão, Bangladesh e Afeganistão, onde o You Tub não tem versões locais, a Google negou o pedido de bloqueio. Os governos desses países responderam bloqueando completamente o You Tube. Barém, Emirados Árabes Unidos, Sudão e Quirguistão bloquearam o vídeo sem nem mesmo solicitar à Google. Maldivas, Brunei e Rússia também ameaçaram bloquear o video e um partido política Árabe-israelense também pediu que o video fosse censurado de forma local. Por favor, adicione as últimas notícias sobre o seu país nos comentários abaixo.

Jillian C. York argumenta: “Embora o bloqueio do video [no Egito e na Líbia] possa parecer tentador, na esteira da violência terrível que ocorreu, não é do interesse da empresa e nem, obviamente, dos cidadãos que a Google seja um árbitro da questão.”

Que a Google ceda às intimidações violentas no Egito e na Líbia pode certamente salvar vidas momentaneamente, mas tal atitude poderá definir um precedente perigoso, abrindo uma caixa de Pandora de queixas toda vez que questões polêmicas surgirem na internet e algum grupo reagir violentamente. Isso poderia levar a uma grande censura e, possivelmente, a uma violência ainda maior se as pessoas decidirem que matar é a maneira mais eficiente de expressar seus descontentamentos e fazer valer suas vontades.

Brian Pellot é editor do Liberdade de Expressão em Debate.

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Comentários (18)

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  1. The story is a slightly more relevant take on an absurd phenomenon. What I have found more interesting is our apparent lack of awareness to the fact that we are automatically drawn into the debates on subjects that have been emphasised by mass media. Of course you would think this understandable and acceptable if you believed the media to be a benevolent force of pure truth. My point here is that free speech is limited to what we know and is therefore currently not free at all. We live in a speech oligarchy where the likes of Rupert Murdoch control what we talk and think about.

  2. In response to the question above my view is that using the film maker’s apparent breach of probation was an expedient ( and for the authorities somewhat lucky) means of appearing to act against the offending party, whilst at the same time being able to justify their actions to another audience as being nothing more than a routine observance of Local law. In the first instance it may go a little way towards appeasing the calls for blood but I think a valuable opportunity has been missed for a liberal democracy to stand up to theocratic bullying and to draw a real line in the sand to show where liberal secular values lie. This is set in the context of a broader gathering storm about the secularity of societies. There must therefore have been a ‘public good’ argument for resisting the calls to arrest the film maker on the basis that events as theybhave come to pass will have sent a signal, however ambiguous, that a democratic state will acquiesce to external violent pressure. There was surely a moral duty on behalf of the authorities to protect freedom of speech but even more importantly to ensure the protesters did not believe that their violent actions could influence the response of the State. This is akin to the payment of ransomed to kidnappers. The relatively trivial issue of a probation transgression could have been dealt with later when the dust had settled.

  3. A lot of very interesting comments so far! Here’s another question for you – Do you think the filmmaker behind Innocence of Muslims was jailed for probation violations or because of the unrest IOM sparked around the world?

    The LA Times frames this as a question of free speech here:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-filmmaker-20121003,0,4693181.story

    Feel free to chime in below, respond to the thread above or comment directly on my post.

  4. Russia, where the official religion is Orthodox Christian, is keen to pass a new set of laws, protecting the fragile “feelings of the believers”, and it seems that an offence to any religion, made by anyone anywhere is welcome as a precedent. The case against “Innocence of Muslims” in Moscow was started by Ruslan Gattarov, MP from Southern Urals and a member of the information policy Committee of Russian Federation. Yesterday, according to Gattarov, the video was given an “extremist” status by a court in Grozny (Chechnya); and Gattarov commented on the court’s decision as being “absolutely correct” and later twitted that there is no need to worry as Google will have to remove it. Gattarov is supported by the Russian Federal Surveillance Service for Mass Media and Communications, who forbid the Russian media to describe the content of the video so the “feelings of the believers are not offended”. However, yesterday the General State’s attorney too issued a statement which claimed that the video “had not yet been assigned an “extremist” status, the court in Grozny had only issued a recommendation to do so as a restrictive measure against its viral spread; the final decision has not been made yet”. At the time of writing the video is available to watch and is offered by a few independent Russian resources to download. The hearing in Moscow is scheduled on 1st October. An interesting twist on the situation is the appearance in the media of articles, which link the case of “Innocence of Muslims” to the case of Pussy Riot and claim that if the video is banned, it would prove to those still in doubt that the verdict, given to Pussy Riot, was also “absolutely correct”.

    • The Innocence of Muslims has been banned in Russia and the full version removed from YouTube. The fragments, dubbed in Russian, are still available to watch with the following disclaimer “This video contains material that may offend the feelings of believers. The authors of the translation respect the religion and do not wish to offend people who watch this video. This fragment is for the educational purpose only, so people can see for themselves why the Muslims around the world protested”.

  5. The Holocaust was the industrial murder of millions of people. We do not permit denial and insist on its being remembered to make sure nothing like it happens again. It is not comparable with a foolish film on YouTube which no-one is compelled to view.

    All of us could if we searched find something deeply offensive to us on the internet or in the press. But we do not do so and if we come across such an item we do not react with violence because we accept that we have no right not to be offended and indeed know that being offended is an uncomfortable but unavoidable part of life we must bear without violence for the sake of the communal integrity and peace and freedom. We know there are political or legal means to address such issues.

    Muslim leaders should reflect on the upbringing that produces a sense of entitlement to such violent responses that are totally disproportionate to any real harm done and realise that freedom of expression in the entire world cannot be controlled by displays of irrational violence. Far from instilling terror and respect these reactions bring disrespect, ridicule and contempt on their faith because many people see them as weak and childish.

    Intimidatory violence must never be rewarded, least of all by censorship,

    • The reason why the example of holocaust has become recurrent to highlight selective free speech in west is because it is the only thing that pokes Western mind the same way as insulting the prophet Muhammad is the easiest way to enrage millions of Muslims. The philosophy of both these sides seems to hit the adversary where it hurts the most. When someone suggests that the Muslims should become desensitized about the derisive content on Muhammad they are simply unable to understand the world view of nearly 1.6 billion Muslims. Similarly, the Muslims with their roots in Asia and Africa are unable to understand Europe’s policies towards genocide as they did not live through the horrors of genocide like Europe did.

      • Thank you Farooq for highlighting this extremely important point. The French philosopher Pascal Bruckner was explaining how we created in the West a certain scale when it comes to Genocides in which the Holocaust stands at the highest possible stage and the other genocides (Rwanda, Armenia, Gulag, etc.) follows behind. By establishing such a ranking, we imply that no genocide could reach such a level of atrocity as in the Holocaust, which is per se a good thing. Yet, we need to be very careful not to imply as well that because nothing can reach the top of the scale, nothing deserves as much attention or action.

        If some Muslims are definitely unaware of what happened during WWII, many others understand it very well, but what they do not understand, and what we should all ask ourselves, is the following: are we remembering the Holocaust so that this very extreme case of genocide does not happen any more again, or are we doing so to prevent any racial, ethnic and discriminatory politics to rise again and be used against any human beings? Even though we call it the World War, for many people on this planet this war does not have the same meaning or significance, and yes, some might be more offended by publication of caricatures of their beloved prophet than they are about the publication of Mein Kampf; because these caricatures hurt them directly, they do not need to take a history class on Western history to understand their offensive character. Are we, in Europe, able to understand the atrocity of the Holocaust even if we have no connection with it whatsoever, but unable to feel similar empathy for modern-day issues, because they are not as atroce?

        Hence, this idea of scale when it comes to genocide or freedom of expression is problematic. If we want to keep such a scale (why not?), we still need to be aware that it is a Western perspective and millions of people might disagree with our ranking.

  6. @Brian: My sense is that such a suit would have a better chance in (continental) Europe, where we have so-called portrait rights as part of copyright law.

  7. A judge in Los Angeles denied a request to remove IOM from YouTube. The request was made by Cindy Lee Garcia, who acted in the film and claimed she was misinformed and misled about its actual content.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/09/judge-innocence-of-muslims-youtube.html

    • This is interesting. Does anyone else find it strange that there are voice-overs in the film whenever Mohammed or relations to Mohammed are mentioned? If the actors were led to believe by the producers that this project was something different, I would start to have second thoughts about the extent to which the producers are “champions” of free speech.

  8. Many years ago, I asked my Spiritual Master,” All the chaos in the world- who is responsible for it?”
    The Master replied,” 2 classes of people who live by the philosophy of divide and rule – one is politicians and the other preachers.”
    We should be aware and wary of these 2 classes of people.

  9. 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.

  10. In the Maldives, the government has officially banned the film and is trying to remove access to it on YouTube. The Communications authority has said that blocking YouTube altogether was “not practical”. There was a small protest outside of the UN building in Male’ where a US flag was burned. Some protesters bought their children carrying plastic AK47s. It was fairly low-key though and more a show of solidarity than a angry demonstration.

  11. Thanks for this, great article.

    As the author points out, it seems to be difficult to work out whose ethical assessment to use for the question of whether the video should be online. There are 1) the producers of Innocence of Muslims; 2) Google; 3) governments around the world; and 4) Muslim protesters. If I had to go with one, I would choose governments, especially if they are democratically elected. Google’s “hate speech” community guideline has all the contradictions of defining who is a minority and who is not, and comes across as too Western for such a global debate. The good thing about governments is that I can always revolt. Google is further away.

    • Sir: The bad thing about governments, especially those which have not been democratically elected, is that they can always ignore the revolt and carry on regardless. Google lives and dies by its IP and Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and these non-democratic governments, live as they please and only die when forcibly removed. I personally would pick the side of Google in this debate, as it seems to me that this would be the side of the law.

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Liberdade de Expressão em Debate é um projeto de pesquisa do Programa Dahrendorf para o Estudo da Liberdade de Expressão, do Colégio St Antony's na Universidade de Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk

A Universidade de Oxford