After violent attacks on Americans in both Egypt and Libya — including an attack in Libya on Tuesday that killed the American ambassador to that country — Google said on Wednesday that it has restricted access to a controversial YouTube video about the Prophet Muhammad that has been linked to the violence. According to a statement from the company, the video is still available on the YouTube website, but viewers from both Libya and Egypt are unable to see it.
In this case, the video clip has been connected to the death of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed on Tuesday in an attack on the embassy in Libya, along with three other members of the ambassador’s diplomatic staff. And in a statement released to the news media, Google made it clear that this is the main reason it decided to block access to the video from viewers in Egypt and Libya (attacks also occurred in Cairo that were linked to the clip). Said the company:
“This video — which is widely available on the Web — is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt, we have temporarily restricted access in both countries. Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered in yesterday’s attack in Libya.”
However, while many of the reports from mainstream media sources about the deaths in Libya have linked it to the video, CNN has said that the embassy attack was actually planned well in advance by members of an extremist group connected to al-Qaeda and was not directly connected to the clip, according to the news network’s sources. As more than one person has pointed out, blocking access to a video from a specific country is also quite easy to get around, even for a technically-challenged viewer — and as Google itself noted, the offending video is available on any number of other websites apart from YouTube. So why bother censoring it?
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