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March 07, 2007


Cindy Liou

I can't say that I'm surprised that a court whose country has a law that outlaws “insults to Turkish culture” has banned YouTube (or other major websites). I definitely it's not wise for the Turkish court to have done so in light of their hopes to join the EU, which has called for the easing of Article 301 and also values free speech rights (although maybe not as fervently as Americans do). What's funny about the supposed insults are that they claim that the founding father of modern Turkey is homosexual (which I suppose some could consider an insult here in America as well, but still...hardly a political insult).
Article 301 if anything is extremely restrictive on free speech rights, at least in the way that Americans perceive the First Amendment. The ability to criticize the government is central to the reason we even have the First Amendment and to promote democracy. While others may claim to apply American understanding of the First Amendment is cultural imperialism, I think that free speech rights like this generally demonstrate how much a government respects its citizen's ability to have real dialogue. Before we condemn Turkey for having a law that outlaws insulting their culture, it's good to remember the analogy of American flag burning, which many Americans believe should be illegal because it insults American culture.
If YouTube complies with different governments to remove anything that may remotely seem offensive to their culture or current government, they may face the same criticism that Google has faced with removing references to things like “Tiananmen Square” for the Chinese government. While it's true that if YouTube censors itself for the Turkish government it is being complicit in restricting the free speech rights of others, I am generally convinced that it is better for YouTube and Google to be able to operate in these countries at all, so that they may be able to provide their valuable services for others. The ability for a Turkish or Chinese citizen to be able to access YouTube and Google can allow them to exercise their free speech rights in other ways, and per my experience in China, many users are now Internet-savvy enough to be able to use Google and YouTube in ways to actually work around the existing firewalls and banned sites to access the information that they want. It would be far worse if these companies were not allowed to operate at all in those countries, and I do believe that countries like China and Turkey will slowly relax their censorship as time goes on and it is obvious the Internet is a juggernaut whose efforts in disseminating information cannot be stopped.

Mark Sabec

I find it appaling that Turkey would ban YouTube in its entirety. To me, it's analogous to the U.S. banning the USPS because someone used it to send a package filled with anthrax. It's merely the provider, the third-party entity that delivers a certain type of content to people. To deny an entire society of the benefits of a product such as YouTube--in terms of low cost and ease of disseminating information to a wide audience--is detrimental.

I am indifferent on how I feel about international corporations such as Google and YouTube complying with each nation's laws but, like you say, "it is obvious the Internet is a juggernaut whose efforts in disseminating information cannot be stopped." Perhaps the best thing for these corporations to do is still provide their service and leave it to hacktivists and programmers to create loopholes so that each nation's citizens have access to the information they desire.

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