Monday, October 16, 2006

If you haven’t heard of YouTube, you soon will. Just the latest innovation on the Internet, YouTube is a site where users are able to upload videos for all to see. The site is minimally managed, which is what gives YouTube such appeal. Anyone with a video recorder can now get online and be seen by anyone else with an Internet connection. Not surprisingly, YouTube’s popularity has exploded, with millions of users and available videos.

But that’s where the party ends. Recently, columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin was informed by YouTube’s operators that a video she had posted was deemed offensive and taken down. The problem is that the video didn’t violate the few criteria YouTube says make it off-limits to users. Titled “First, They Came,” Mrs. Malkin’s video was a slideshow showing some victims of Islamist violence, much of it inspired by the Mohammed cartoon fiasco earlier this year. This is what YouTube operators called “inappropriate.”

YouTube, however, doesn’t monitor the videos users post. Instead, it relies on complaints from users and only then judges whether a video violates any of its terms of use. Now, who would be most “offended” by a slideshow of Islamist violence? Islamists, of course. As Mrs. Malkin quickly discovered after telling readers of her blog what had happened, hers isn’t the first anti-Islamist video yanked from YouTube. At the same time, Islamists have posted hundreds of their own propaganda videos extolling the virtues of jihad, terrorism etc.

Previously, the Islamists’ Internet jihad had targeted blogs compiled on Google News. After a few complaints, Google would inform bloggers that their site was considered offensive and wouldn’t be listed on a search. The same thing has now carried over to YouTube. And guess who just bought YouTube? Google.

The war on terror is not just being fought on battlefields or within intelligence agencies. With the Internet, terrorists are able to attack us by cowing nervous Web site owners into submitting to their demands. When they can’t scare Internet operators, they simply try to hack into a site and shut it down. As Mrs. Malkin rightly notes, in the case of YouTube, “instead of boycotting the site, we need to stay and fight.” She has urged her readers to keep posting anti-Islamist videos to combat the terrorists’ cyber-jihad.

Civil-liberties advocates are constantly warning about the dangers of censorship enacted by the government. What they have just as constantly overlooked is the very real danger of censorship enacted by private businesses fearful of Islamist rage. The only way to fight this assault on our freedoms is by not giving in as YouTube has.

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