companies such as YouTube, google, yahoo and microsoft find themselves in a really serious predicament which is likely to only get worse as time goes on.
simply put, the issue is what laws do you obey?
there have been a number of different situations where these legal questions have been raised,
one of the most notorious would be the decision by Yahoo! to hand across information on a democracy blogger to the Chinese authorities.
but right around the world there have been all manner of inconsistent decisions which appears to be a case by case basis, which leads to the point.
How can companies such as Google decide who has reasonable laws and who doesn't?
Different countries have some very different laws, so how do you decide which laws are right and just and which ones aren't?
forgetting predjudices for a second, what the american society holds as strict moral and ethical codes are fanatically strict by some standards and totally loose and immoral by others.
but what can google do?
for instance in the case of Lese majestes and YouTube – this is a very serious crime in Thailand, and many people are painting this like its a case of political censorship, its not that at all.
The video is considered obscene and vulgar in Thailand, from what I understand the video would be considered obscene and vulgar regardless of who was in it, the fact that it was the king simply added insult to injury.
The feet are considered to be an unclean part of the body, and furthest from the head, and it makes sense - if you want more information, a bit of web trawling will probably reveal more.
Fortunately I think that Youtube / Google have taken the correct path in this case, and that is they have removed the offending videos.
Moving into the future these multinational companies need to better outlay what is considered offensive, what will result in details being handed to relevant authorities and charter this in a legal document,
Having double standards is just not acceptable, it is also totally unacceptable to enforce the moral and ethical prejudices of one country onto another.
If these companies want to be truly multinational then they need to be multinational, and that means they need to establish an upfront straight approach.
otherwise there will be all manner of problems.
On the other hand, it seems that the American foreign policy is to enforce their own values, morals and belief apon others, and the companies seem to mimic this to one extent or another.
They need to take proactive, not reactive stances and make it clear where they stand,
some countries consider it to be offensive for two people to show affection in public / broadcast,
other countries you can just about get away with blatant pornography without upsetting anyone.
there are all manners of beliefs, values, morals and ethics that exist around the world, and companies such as youtube really need to wake up to this.
I can see two possible solutions
No. 1 - the high Administerial Overhead option.
The way I would see this particular version working is that based on the location that the traffic is originating from would filter certain content that is considered to be illegal, and content that is considered to be offensive would have warnings on it (in a number of cases this already happens)No 2 - The moral stand point:
The administerial overhead could be reduced quite a lot by putting it in the hands of various governments to notify what they wanted blocked, and for them to provide the justification.
Google already does this with its chinese search engine - but lets face it, these are businesses that want to work with exploding markets, they have to play the game somewhat.
even though this is another form of censorship, I think it's likely to work a lot more in most peoples favour.
as aside from anything else lets face it we all know that its relatively easy to use a proxy to changing your originating location, and there is more content coming onto the internet everyday.
they write up a huge charter that states what is and what isn't acceptable and what will and won't be removed from their site, however there is all sorts of side issues to this - predominantly copyright - which means they can't police the site without actually risking more responsibility.No. 3 - the legal warning.
As part of the terms and conditions for the location of the world state what they will and wont do,No. 4 - the chaos model.
and what it will take, in other words "if you post a video that is an offence under relevant law in your country we will remove the video if a complaint is made, and if a warrant served will give your information to the relevant authorities"
Allowing posting of absolutely anything and everything, sensor nothing at all, shy completely away from any form of censorship at all, this includes, terrorists, killings, rapes, horticulture, book burning, students beating each other up, pornography, etc. etc. etc.
regardless of legality, morality or good taste.
the above issues have their own pro's and con's and I don't think this is an easy issue to address so from that perspective I can see why the companies have reactive policies at this point in time.
Moving forward I think the best solution is for them to effectively have their own "virtual ten commandments" and have a list of things that are considered to be universally bad and terrible. and not acceptable, and possible prosecution could result.
anything else and they let it show.
Other related posts:
Internet Censorship, Guilt by accusation, I'm Angry. very angry (S92a - etc)
Privacy laws get long overdue tidyup over Motorist Registration (NZ)
Hand em over. Thai government wants YouTube to provide Users Identity.
Comment by Ted, on 18-May-2007 11:07
Thanks for your article. I agree with you about what Google/YouTube should do because it's hypocritical to block videos and searches in China but not a couple that are clearly offending in Thailand.