It may not be censorship by the U.S. government directly, but per Mike Masnick at Techdirt (@techdirt), we have former Senator Joe Lieberman to thank for YouTube censoring a key Syrian watchdog’s YouTube channel.
One of [Lieberman's] campaigns, way back in 2008, was to force YouTube to magically censor videos from terrorists. After putting a lot of public pressure on YouTube, the company caved. And… as a result of that, it recently shut down the video channel of an important Syrian watchdog organization which had been posting video evidence of atrocities occurring in that country.
The organization censored for “publishing shocking and offensive videos” was disseminating graphic videos on YouTube of atrocities from the bloody civil war in which the Syrian government is killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians.
YouTube has now apologized and reinstated the channel, but, as Masnick points out, “This is what happens when you encourage censorship. It is impossible not to have it lead to censoring important speech.”
I exchanged notes last week with someone I met on Twitter who is reporting the Syrian atrocities in the main stream press as well as via social media. He pointed out not only how important social media was in fighting the Assad government, but how important it was for the West to support social media coming from and reporting about Syria.
In addition to spreading the media from and about Syria, I was told the West can provide social media logistical support and, through social media, undermine the misinformation being spread by the state. In the light of the Arab Spring, and the short shelf life of social media, the people using social media in Syria need to know the West is there to support them via spreading the word and more.
Social media may be the purest form of free speech we’ve ever had – at least when it comes to dissemination and connections. But, because of the power of free speech, it scares a lot of people. Including people in the United States.
As lawyers, and blogging lawyers, we have an obligation to champion the cause of free speech and to stamp out censorship when ever we can. Who else better to do so than lawyers, the descendants of the framers of our constitution?
If you’re looking for the causes to be fighting and the arguments to be using, you could do a lot worse than Masnick. With a degree in Industrial and Labor Relations and an MBA, he may not be a lawyer, but he’s one of the best legal bloggers we have on causes like this.