Update at 4:00 p.m.: YouTube said in statement to The Washington Post that it will restrict access to the film in Libya and Egypt in light of the attacks. The full statement follow below.
“We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. 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.”
An online video is being cited as the catalyst for the Tuesday attack on the U.S. consulate Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Several videos related to the film are on YouTube, including a nearly 14-minute trailer posted by filmmaker Sam Bacile promoting the longer film, called the “Innocence of Muslims.” The film calls the prophet Muhammad a fraud and shows him having sex, The Washington Post reported. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that some have tried to justify the attacks as a response to “inflammatory material posted on the Internet” but said that there is “no justification for this.”
The trailer has been viewed over 55,000 times, according to the counter posted with the video and has tallied over 8,000 dislikes and 2,600 likes.
Comments on the trailer video itself range from calls for users to mark the video as inappropriate to those supporting the filmmaker.
The rhetoric in the comments is heated, with over 9,000 comments already, and more being posted every second.
Several said that the reaction to the film seemed far beyond what was appropriate.
“Did people really have to die for this poorly produced movie?” wrote one commenter.
There are campaigns to have the video taken down by flagging it as inappropriate under the Web site’s community guidelines.
The guidelines state that there should be no videos with explicit sexual content, “bad stuff” like animal abuse, drug abuse, under-age drinking and smoking or things such as bomb making, gratuitous violence, accidents or dead bodies.
But the site does say, explicitly, that it encourages free speech and defends “everyone’s right to express unpopular points of view.”
Still, the site does not permit “hate speech,” which it defines as “speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity.”
The Google-operated video site has has made it clear in the past that it has a firm commitment to free speech — its role in the Arab Spring is a testament to that stance — and has a high bar for taking off videos that could be seen as expressing political opinions, no matter how unpopular.
In a statement circulated to the press Tuesday night, a YouTube spokesperson said, “We take great care when we enforce our policies and try to allow as much content as possible while ensuring that our Community Guidelines are followed.”