There has been rising criticism of YouTube censoring content on its site and today is another example. People posted the video of a mob taunting a man nearly beaten to death at a Fourth of July event. The video has triggered a debate over hate crime investigations as well as the simple lack of humanity found in today’s society. In other words, there is a substantive debate surrounding the videotape. However, YouTube says that it has been taken down for disgusting content. It rekindles the objection that YouTube has become a private censor — rather than a forum that warns of such content but allows people to make their own choices. [UPDATE: The video appears to be going up and coming down on YouTube but appears to be currently available here with a warning. I have not problem as I stated below with the addition of such a warning and wall]
There is no question that there is a lot of disturbing videotapes out there. Another example is ISIS. The Islamic extremists clearly use their horrendous acts to recruit. However, these videotapes also show the vast majority of people — including the vast majority of Muslims — the depth of depravity of this group and the reality of religious extremism in the world. Shielding people from such images (rather than allowing them to decide) is a controversial role.
Critics have said that the most important images on YouTube are often disturbing but that they are the very images that trigger meaningful public debate. Otherwise, YouTube seems catered to videos of cats playing piano. The removal of this videotape is problematic in my view. Yes, there is blood and a terribly injured man. However, most people linking to this video (as on this blog) are engaged in a discussion about our values and more concretely the evidence needed to start a hate crime investigation. Why not but up a wall and allow people to decide for themselves? What do you think should be the standard?