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Egyptian Blogger Silenced by YouTube, Yahoo! 188

Posted by Zonk
from the citizen-journalists-need-credentials-now dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An Egyptian human rights activist has been muzzled after YouTube and Yahoo! shut down his accounts. Award-winning blogger Wael Abbas regularly writes and posts video about police brutality, torture and sexual harassment in Egypt. One of the videos — of an Egyptian bus driver being brutalized by an officer — was used as evidence to convict two members of the police force. That's a rare occurrence in a country where human-rights groups say torture is rampant. YouTube said the decision to remove Abbas' videos had nothing to do with the Egyptian government, but was rather an internal decision."
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Egyptian Blogger Silenced by YouTube, Yahoo!

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:18AM (#21531251)

    Nobody has the right to express their views through somebody else's medium, particularly graphic violence through a medium like YouTube that is marketed as family-friendly. This guy hasn't been silenced, he's been kicked off particular services. He is free to use other services, isn't he?

    Let's not dilute and weaken the term "censorship" please. It is a despicable act and Google and Yahoo choosing not to provide service to him is not even close.

    • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:20AM (#21531277)
      There is an adult content flag for certain videos on Youtube for a reason. That is more than ample to protect users from unwanted contect. Besides, if someone finds one of his videos I doubt they did so by searching for cute pink daisies. They are owned by Google, after all.
      • by MrKaos (858439)
        And if they put the video back now they can drool over all the advertising revenue from a slashdotting.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by fluffman86 (1006119)
        Thanks for reminding me of that. Remind Google, too. Send them a letter and let them know what you think of censorship. You all can use mine, if you wish:

        Your Address
        Date of writing

        Google Inc.
        1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
        Mountain View, CA 94043

        To whom it may concern:

        I have been a faithful user of Google for several years now. I'm proud to support a company that offers great products (search, email, calendars, photo management, videos, etc.) while remaining consumer friendly. I especially appreciate Google
      • Besides, if someone finds one of his videos I doubt they did so by searching for cute pink daisies.
        Are you sure? Have you tried to search for cute pink daisies [youtube.com]? Hint, last video in the results list.
        • This video or group may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube's user community. To view this video or group, please verify you are 18 or older by logging in or signing up
          I think it works.
          • Eh? How so? The content still showed up in a search. Further, it came up on a search for pink daises or whatever it was -- or are you just conveniently ignoring that part?
    • by redscare2k4 (1178243) on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:28AM (#21531361)
      If you RTFA, there's expressed what I think is a very valid point. If youtube forbids vids containing graphical violence, then why aren't all those people uploading videos of people getting tasered by police officers (for example) getting their accounts banned. IMHO It's not a matter of "Terms of Service". It's a matter of a company choosing to apply those Terms with a double standard. A double standard that get's a the account of a guy who uses youtube to denounce torture banned. And that is wrong both ethically and legally.
      • by OverlordQ (264228)
        or maybe it could be that getting tasered isn't considered excessive "Graphical Violence".

        • by dangitman (862676)
          No shit. That was addresses in the GP post. The question it asked was: why the double standard? That's the salient point.
      • by tbannist (230135)
        Occam's Razor:

        Those accounts haven't been suspended yet, because they haven't been "reported" enough as violating the terms of service. Please remember, YouTube isn't a person. YouTube doesn't even employ video screeners who watch all videos as they are uploaded. The screeners only look at videos that have been reported for violating the terms of service and there are also multiple different screeners who may have slightly different standards and must make judgement calls on what gets pulled and what doe
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by essh10151 (1021249)
          Somewhere in Google's Scrooge McDuck swimming pool of money you have to think a salary or two could be found to establish an "important speech" review section to ensure that politically important videos (e.g. TFA) don't get pulled. They could probably get a volunteer board to at least maintain a suggested list of protected video.

          Of course, maybe the videos were causing them back-channel grief in Egypt or setting a dangerous example with some future strategy of theirs.

      • by ajs (35943)

        If you RTFA, there's expressed what I think is a very valid point.

        If youtube forbids vids containing graphical violence, then why aren't all those people uploading videos of people getting tasered by police officers (for example) getting their accounts banned.

        You're dealing with cultural definitions and tolerances for graphic violence. My guess would be that Google is drawing the line at what is illegal for display in the UK (a much narrower range than the U.S. where graphic violence appears every night on network TV). Blame Google if you want, but I'm not sure that you are standing on solid ground. Then again, I don't know the specifics, and I'm guessing as to their rationale.

      • Better yet, why doesn't Wikileaks or whatever start up leaktube if Youtube technically doesn't allow this stuff? I think Wikileaks is a great idea and Leaktube would be perfect for things like this.
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:28AM (#21531367) Homepage Journal

      This guy hasn't been silenced, he's been kicked off particular services. He is free to use other services, isn't he?
      While I would normally tend to agree with you, it doesn't sound like that's the case this time. YouTube hosts plenty of content like this one, including police brutality videos from the United States and other foreign countries. They've hosted some very graphic content, including the hanging of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. These videos have an 'adult content' flag on them, and won't be shone to visitors that have Google's SafeSearch turned on (this is the default, I believe).
    • by Morosoph (693565) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:26AM (#21532031) Homepage Journal

      Let's not dilute and weaken the term "censorship" please. It is a despicable act and Google and Yahoo choosing not to provide service to him is not even close.
      If a book is censored in England, but can be read in France, it is still censored. The object of censorship is to reduce the circulation of certain material, and that is exactly what has happenned here. Yes, censorship is policy, but are you seriously suggesting that people's right not to be offended outweighs the documentation of human rights abuses? Putting these abuses up on another site means that only people who already know about such abuse will find out about it.

      Private entities have the right to censor, but it remains censorship. States also have the right to censor; it doesn't stop the act from being censorship when it occurs. Nor does it prevent the act from being wrong.

  • internal decision (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:20AM (#21531269) Homepage

    YouTube said the decision to remove Abbas' videos had nothing to do with the Egyptian government, but was rather an internal decision.

    Uhm... internal decision? So they mean that they didn't bother to even wait for the government to order them to remove it? And this is supposed to make them look better or what?

    • That's not "Insightful" in any way.

      Youtube's terms of service prohibit graphic violence. The terms of service were violated, and the violator was punished. If this was any other person, posting random violence, there'd be no scandal over his removal.

      So why, may I ask, is the Slashdot community so biased over youtube... when clearly the blogger chose to post content he knew to be unacceptable according to the terms of this FREE service.

      If this content was removed from his blog... or if his blog was removed..
      • by plague3106 (71849)
        Ya, and in this case the TOS are shit, because this is more akin to journalism and should NOT be censored, for any reason. People need to know exactly what's going on.

        In other words, they're hindering the progress of human rights in Egypt, and I could give a fuck about their TOS in this case.
        • by TeraCo (410407)
          Ya, and in this case the TOS are shit, because this is more akin to journalism and should NOT be censored, for any reason. People need to know exactly what's going on.

          Just because it's journalistic doesn't mean that it's any more appropriate for youtube. I wouldn't expect 60 minutes to be uploading Iraq war footage to youtube either. There are plenty of other video hosting groups that will host violent footage, use one of those.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dnwq (910646)
        The problem is that you can find some really graphic violence of, say, animals being slaughtered on YouTube. YouTube appears to be selectively enforcing its TOS. Nailing down politically undesirable scenes of violence, while ignoring desired or neutral violence, suggests a major problem with priorities.
      • by fm6 (162816)

        That's not "Insightful" in any way.
        As you may have noticed, most moderators define "insightful" as "You are *so* right!" And hey, if they can't be bothered to read TFA (which clearly spells out the TOS issue) they're not going to read Slashdot's moderation definitions [slashdot.org]. Or if the do, they don't care (see my sig).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rtechie (244489)

        Youtube's terms of service prohibit graphic violence. The terms of service were violated, and the violator was punished. If this was any other person, posting random violence, there'd be no scandal over his removal.

        1) Broadcast organizations usually make a distinction between graphic violence for entertainment (like bloodsports) and graphic violence for journalistic and humans rights reasons because the latter does not normally harm the reputation of the broadcast network, but actually enhances it.

        2) You are assuming that this is the reason his content was removed. That is EXTREMELY unlikely. If his content was popular, and all evidence say it way, lots of people were watching it and generating ad revenue for Google.

  • TFA summarized (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:21AM (#21531303)
    Censored bloke: "By far the biggest blow to the anti-torture movement in Egypt"

    YouTube: "Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don't post it."

    Commentary: "OK, why then can I find dozens of videos of people getting tasered by the police? If you ask me, a video of someone getting shocked with a high voltage weapon can definitely be described as graphic violence. And many will argue that the violence in such videos cannot be qualified as gratuitous. ..."
    • I visited You Tube today to complain about the cancellation of Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas's account.

      How can documenting human rights abuses be gratuitous? Your policy is against specifically gratuitous violence, after all. I would ask you and your owner (Google) to reverse this evil, and reinstate him forthwith.
    • "Do no evil" does not imply doing any good. That is if you are willing to consider that there is some amount of space between good and evil
  • tags (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chapter80 (926879)

    [+] censorship, internet, yahoo, !donotevil (tagging beta)
    I can't figure out these tags. What the heck does !donotevil mean???

    I assume the ! means Not.
    So "Not do not evil" ???
    Maybe it's misspelled, Homer. Maybe it's supposed to be donut evil.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by redscare2k4 (1178243)
      I think it refers to the fact that Google OWNS youtube. And that google motto is "do no evil" (why so many people still believe that google, a private company, gives a f about ethics is beyond my understanding). Hence the irony. And of course, this is /. ,and every geek should know that '!' is the standard notation for logical negation in most programming languages :D
      • by will_die (586523)
        Google is a public company, NASDAQ stock symbol GOOG.
        • Only so far as Google wants you to believe it's public. I know that's a bit cryptic, so let me explain.

          Larry and Sergey own a majority of the voting shares. A common stockholder, or any stockholder, will never have a say in the direction of the company. Larry and Sergey even wrote a "poison pill" into Google's incorporation articles to make sure that they always have a majority vote.

          GOOG stockholders are, in essence, donating equity. GOOG stockholders just hope that Larry and Sergey don't screw up because t
      • by Asic Eng (193332)
        [...]why so many people still believe that google, a private company, gives a f about ethics is beyond my understanding

        Well companies care about their reputation, because being thought of as evil can have a negative impact on business.

  • I've just made an internal decision of my own, never to use another Yahoo site, or related property again. That includes Flickr and any other Yahoo owned property.

    From now on Yahoo is blocked on my network as well. Sorry, it was an 'internal decision' to block it.

    Normal service will resume when (if?) Yahoo pull their socks up.

  • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:55AM (#21531681) Journal

    For all those comments saying this has to do with how bad the situation is in Egypt, it does not.
    This is indicative of the situation in the US where these corporations exist.
    Historical record shows that corporate entities have big financial incentives to aid and abet the suppression of human rights in democratic societies that are closing down and turning into dictatorship states.

    Naomi Wolf, an award winning feminist writer who used to be part of the Clinton clique has recently written a book [amazon.com] about this. For those who would like to check it out there is an youtube speech [youtube.com] she gave recently detailing the main concept of her recent research.

    The U.S. is in a downward spiral and predictions can be made for what comes next. The attacks are first directed at the margins of society, then the lines get blurred and everyone becomes fair game. Within a year you will hear this happen to an American blogger and many people will defend the action. Journalists are already being harassed, bloggers will come soon after.

    It reminds me of a poem I once heard:

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,
    I remained silent;
    I wasn't a Jew.

    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out.

    Martin Niemöller [wikipedia.org] (1892-1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

    • First amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press"

      Note the first word. It says Congress, not Youtube. You have no rights when playing on someone else's property. If you don't like playing by someone else's rules, run your blog from your own server, or somewhere else.

      P.S. Reductio ad Hitlerum doesn't help your argument.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mdwh2 (535323)
        I've reread the OP, and I'm trying to see where he claims this is against the constitution?
      • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:54AM (#21532407) Journal

        P.S. Reductio ad Hitlerum doesn't help your argument.

        I guess you didn't read my post or any of the information I linked.
        If you had you would have realized I am talking about early 1930's Germany for the most part. Germany was a parliamentary democracy, fairly liberal and very similar to the U.S. today. Way before Hitler and before the National Socialist party was anything but an outsider. You could easily have the conversation and compare it to ANY fascist state that used to be a democracy and closed in on itself; Italy in the 20's, Russia in the 30's, East Germany in the 50's etc.

        Since you mention the Constitution, there are laws being passed as we speak (already passed this year and proposed right now) that dismantle and subvert the constitution.

        But as a matter of fact, there are direct links between Hitler, Hitler's financier and Prescott Bush, our current president's grandfather. Prescott Bush was involved in a coup attempt in the U.S. to overthrow FDR. The attempted coup was financed by the same man who financed Hitler. Congressional hearings at the time have evidence of this.
        BBC Reference [bbc.co.uk]

        Furthermore, the movement within the U.S. government has directly used tactics, imagery, phrases and ideas from fascist Germany in current times and it's directly related to the things that I'm talking about.

        I call Bullshit on your pompous invocation of Godwin's law and ask that you at least dig around a bit before responding.

        PODCAST [prisonplanet.com]of a radio interview the Alex Jones show for further reference.

        • by sumdumass (711423)
          Um what laws are being passed that are against the constitution?

          I don't doubt that something might have slid by me but if your still rehashing the arguments about habeas corpus or the warrant-less wiretapping, that tripe has been refuted time and time again. Constitutional scholars have come to accept it as a reality that doesn't violate the constitution. IT just violates people interpretations of the constitution.

          So please, let me know if there is actually something to be worried about or is this more bias
        • by JBMcB (73720) on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:26AM (#21533567)
          "I guess you didn't read my post or any of the information I linked."

          No, I didn't read Woolf's book or listen to her speech. I've heard the arguments a dozen times before. You pick a few conditions leading up to Nazi Germany, then compare them to the current administration's policies. It's sloppily researched propaganda. See here:
          http://www.amazon.com/review/product/1933392797/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?_encoding=UTF8&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending#R28W0R1KUAZR0H [amazon.com]
          And here:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_sharpshooter_fallacy [wikipedia.org]

          "Germany was a parliamentary democracy, fairly liberal and very similar to the U.S. today."

          No, it was pretty friggin far from the current state of the US. For one, unemployment in Germany was at a staggeringly high 30% in 1932. It's at about 4.5% in the US currently, trending down in the last four years. I bet if you do a little more research, you could find other, rather significant, ways 1930 Germany != 2000 USA. Unless, of course, you are only looking for similarities.
          http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet?request_action=wh&graph_name=LN_cpsbref3 [bls.gov]
          http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERunemployment.htm [schoolnet.co.uk]

          "Since you mention the Constitution, there are laws being passed as we speak (already passed this year and proposed right now) that dismantle and subvert the constitution."

          Laws cannot dismantle the constitution, only constitutional amendments can. Stupid laws get passed all the time, mainly to increase the power of the state over it's citizens. Welcome to 20th/21st century USA.

          "But as a matter of fact, there are direct links between Hitler, Hitler's financier and Prescott Bush, our current president's grandfather."

          That's nice, what does it have to do with anything?
          http://www.fallacyfiles.org/genefall.html [fallacyfiles.org]
          More or less.

          "Within a year you will hear this happen to an American blogger and many people will defend the action."

          It happens all the time in all types of media. It doesn't matter as long as it's not the government suppressing speech. I can easily visit anarchist, communist, fascist, racist, theocratic, liberal, conservative, and UFO cult religion websites with impunity - where is the organized suppression of thought here? Then again, a lot of media outlets are making a heap of money skewering the Bush regime, maybe it's a conspiracy! :)

          "Furthermore, the movement within the U.S. government has directly used tactics, imagery, phrases and ideas from fascist Germany in current times and it's directly related to the things that I'm talking about."

          I'm not sure what "Movement" you are talking about, but the political tactics used by Germany have been around before Nietzsche and Machiavelli. I'm not saying it's right, but it certainly isn't a new development, or something indicating a swing toward fascism.
          http://www.fallacyfiles.org/genefall.html [fallacyfiles.org]
          (Again)

          "I call Bullshit on your pompous invocation of Godwin's law and ask that you at least dig around a bit before responding."

          I did dig around and found that you are even more wrong than I originally thought. I suggest you link to websites that provide data to back your arguments, not to other people making the same argument as you.

          http://www.fallacyfiles.org/authorit.html [fallacyfiles.org]

          I suggest you read Chomsky, he does some halfway decent research and uses citations, even if his conclusions are utterly wrong.
          • by rtechie (244489)

            No, I didn't read Woolf's book or listen to her speech. I've heard the arguments a dozen times before. You pick a few conditions leading up to Nazi Germany, then compare them to the current administration's policies.

            Godwin's Law is bullshit. If one picks comparable attributes it is perfectly reasonable to compare people and governments to Hitler and the Nazi movement. For example, Hitler and JFK were both similar in that they projected images for health and virility, but in reality they were both sickly and not really the "ladies' men" they made themselves out to be. Perfectly legitimate comparison right there.

            The fallacy YOU'RE engaging in is: "Any comparison of right-wing American political leaders to Hitler, Nazis,

            • by JBMcB (73720)
              "Godwin's Law is bullshit. If one picks comparable attributes it is perfectly reasonable to compare people and governments to Hitler and the Nazi movement."

              What rhetorical purpose does comparing 1930s Nazi Germany with the USA in 2000 fulfill? You can find similarities between any two random civilizations, unless you are comparing very specific societal effects, making generalizations are useless beyond throwing firebombs into a conversation.

              "The fallacy YOU'RE engaging in is: "Any comparison of right-wing
              • by rtechie (244489)

                he isn't significantly worse than some others we have had.

                He is certainly worse than any other President in living memory, easily worse than Nixon.

                Are you for real?
                http://hnn.us/articles/5331.html [hnn.us]

                Are you for real in posting such drivel? Nixon was well know for his racist views. And even if Nixon was the reincarnation of Martin Luther King, it wouldn't change the fact that conservatives and the Republican party have fully embraced the white power crowd, many of whom were formerly Democrats.

                Sabia seems to fall into the "camp" (made up exclusively of white Republicans) that believes that blacks were harmed by the

    • by MrKaos (858439)
      It's the banal manager type that facilitate the western worlds slide into despotism or some other kind of ism by being complicit in this sort of crime. This is an externality of our information industry, the same way a chemical company pumps toxic waste into a river, or the energy industry pumps carbon into the atmosphere.

      It's the reason our entire western society strives for mediocrity nowadays, being mediocre is the new black and striving to be the same as everyone else is the only way to get noticed, as

    • Naomi Wolf was recently on Democracy Now! [democracynow.org] talking about "The End of America" (transcript [democracynow.org], low-bandwidth audio [archive.org], high-bandwidth audio [archive.org], low-bandwidth video [archive.org], high-bandwidth video [archive.org]).

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:59AM (#21531711) Journal
    Shouldn't this be on the news? I mean they show stuff like this on the news....

    Oh, I forgot...

  • There are a growing number of "whistleblower" that follow political corruption, though many are just wikis. Do any of those allow for video uploads?
  • Ive been watching youtube videos on and off for over a year now and lately I have noticed everything is becoming sanitised and Disney like. I often see commentary videos pulled that I have already seen for the most vague reasons. I suspect now that Youtube is being paid to insert viral advertising videos into the cloud Youtube wants to make sure their new paying masters dont have much criticism happening.
  • by frenchbedroom (936100) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:46AM (#21532289)

    Egyptian Blogger Silenced by YouTube, Yahoo!

    That has to be the most cynical title ever given to a Slashdot article. What's next ?

    Chinese Journalist Muffled by Government, Hurray!

    American Civilian Tasered by Police, Yipee!

  • The headline/summary is highly misleading. The article makes no mention of Yahoo anywhere.

    What is missing in the summary is that Google owns YouTube. But the Google fanboys here would not want admit that the Almighty Google is fallible.

    Please provide proof of Yahoo's complicity, or fix the summary and the headline.

  • Briefly skimming the article in question... how exactly is Yahoo! involved in this?

    The article's title is "YouTube suspends Egyptian blog activist's account". YouTube is not affiliated with Yahoo!.
  • Quickly scan the article, where is yahoo mentioned? does slashdot editor ever check the source?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The original article didn't mention Yahoo! specifically, but other articles did:

    http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/7184 [foreignpolicy.com]

    Yahoo! claimed that he was using his email accounts for spamming, so they shut him down.
  • For some reason Mubarak has managed to keep a very clean image, even though he is a brutal dictator not much better or worse than the rest of them. If I were to compare Syria and Egypt in brutality against political opposition I would probabely say Syria comes out on top. But Syria is "evil" and Egypt is an ally.

    Btw. both countries are really nice tourism spots, so please don't let this all deter you from seeing the pyramids (and tell them you are from Canada, because the whole Iraq thing hasn't gone down t
  • I think Google and Yahoo may not be the right site for this anyway. They are for-profit companies that want to (and arguably need to) do business globally and therefore will adopt a least common denominator approach: if something is illegal in Egypt, Turkey, Russia, or China, there's a good chance that it will be removed. Also, if something is contrary to popular opinion, it may well get banned.

    This kind of video needs to be (1) widely circulated and archived, and (2) put in the context of human rights ef

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