Google Inc rejected a request by the White House on Friday to reconsider its decision to keep online a controversial YouTube movie clip that has ignited anti-American protests in the Middle East, Reuters reports.
Google said it was censoring the video in India and Indonesia after blocking it on Wednesday in Egypt and Libya, where U.S. embassies have been stormed by protestors enraged over depiction of the Prophet Mohammad as a fraud and philanderer.
“We’ve restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal such as India and Indonesia, as well as in Libya and Egypt, given the very sensitive situations in these two countries,” the Internet company said. “This approach is entirely consistent with principles we first laid out in 2007.”
The video, a trailer for what the promoters say is full-length film produced in the United States, has become a cause for the some of the violent unrest in several Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt and Yemen.
On Sept. 12, Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, and four other Americans were killed in the country’s capital of Benghazi, during protests against the film.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday that investigators have no evidence that the protests were caused by anything other than the video.
“It is in response to a video, a film, that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting,” Carney said. “That in no way justifies any violent reaction to it, but this is not a case of protest directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy. This is in response to a video that is offensive and — to Muslims.”
“Again, this is not in any way justifying violence. And we’ve spoken very clearly out against that and condemned it. And the president is making sure in his conversations with leaders around the region that they are committed, as hosts to diplomatic facilities, that — to protect both personnel and buildings and other facilities that are part of the U.S. representation in those countries,” said Carney.
“When the White House rings you up and asks you to look into something content-related, that’s what we call ‘regulation by raised eyebrow,'” says Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “It’s censorship through intimidation — and without any due process.”
According to CNet, Twitter erupted with condemnation of the White House’s move. One post said “the news headline ‘White House Asks YouTube To Review Video’ should scare every so-called ‘internet freedom’ YouTuber.” Another: “The White House asked YouTube to review or delete a video? A terrible 1st Amend. violating idea, regardless of content.”
Meanwhile, U.S. authorities said on Friday that they were investigating whether the film’s producer, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year old Egyptian Coptic Christian living in Southern California, had violated terms of his prison release. Basseley was convicted in 2010 for bank fraud and released from prison on probation last June.