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YouTube Banned and Censored in Iran

Ghazal Omid - 3/5/2008

Feb 26th, 2008, Reuters reported, “YouTube outage might have been caused by Pakistan.” Cheap YouTube viewsallow the opposition to promote its message and the government is trying to prevent it. The same night, news of YouTube being shut down was discussed on every major network, speculating whether the Pakistani government was responsible. YouTube executives didn’t call it censorship, explaining the shutdown was the result of a routing change creating a massive traffic jam and “many users around the world could not access the site for about two hours.”

A similar event happened in Iran in December 2006. When students at Amir Kabir Tehran University burned pictures of Ahmedinejad while he was speaking, the videos surfaced on YouTube. YouTube was shut down immediately. Iranians, including myself, expressed outrage at the Iranian government on live news and supported YouTube and Freedom of Speech.

When Fox News DaySide asked me to comment about the Iranian regime censoring YouTube, I jumped at the idea of helping YouTube, who we thought was the victim. In my Iranian Human Rights mind, there is nothing more outrageous than shutting down a free information site that enables people around the world to see for themselves how the Iranian regime brutally treats the Iranian opposition within Iran.

However, there has been a slight twist to the story. The outrage we showed toward the Iranian government seems to have back lashed on YouTube’s bottom line. The radicals found that, under YouTube policy, if they complain in enough numbers, YouTube will remove the videos to which they object, regardless of the importance of the message. When anyone complains to YouTube, an automatic email is generated. Fox News viewers and readers of my book, Living in Hell, have been reading about Iranian human rights activities that I have undertaken. I was incredulous at receiving YouTube notification, “Video Removed: Inappropriate Content.” I received emails from viewers that did not see the original interview, who thought that I had done something salacious or obscene. They didn’t know that while YouTube does not hesitate to show sex, profanity and Al Qaeda members beheading Americans, it has much stricter standards for Human Rights.

YouTube’s outrage at being censored is hypocritical because they enjoy a double standard, having successfully and quietly shut down many activists on its site. YouTube censorship has never been publicized by mainstream media or lawmakers. It is regrettable that they value dollars over allowing criticism of radicals.

I assure you, I am not the only victim of YouTube discrimination. I am just one of the few with the guts to speak up. You can judge from the evidence presented below whether YouTube was justified in labeling my “outspokenness” on Fox News Live Desk as being of an “inappropriate nature”

An original tape of the Fox News Live Desk segment in question is available. It can also be viewed on the internet at the following link: http://bankruptterror.org/videos/GO120606.php

As a Human Rights activist who never uses foul language on TV, never promotes hate and stands up to the radials and Islamist, I, along with many people of this rank, expected freedom of speech and candid help from YouTube in bringing the message of true freedom to people around the world. http://michellemalkin.com/2006/10/04/banned-on-youtube-3/

Instead, we get the boot. YouTube keeps shutting down news videos and accounts critical of Islamic radicals.

What is the reason for YouTube’s public outcry and back stabbing? If YouTube doesn’t benefit financially from being censored, can its wailing about being censored in Iran and Pakistan while it censors anyone who speaks up against the radicals be political?

The Question is: Who is responsible and willing to keep YouTube honest? What YouTube does violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the First Amendment right to free speech. Worse, it allows radicals to flex their Media Muscle and silence those who speak against them.

Ghazal Omid is an author of Living in Hell, human rights and women's rights advocate, and an expert on Iran and Shiah Islam.

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