According to AlterNet, Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely recently met with Google executives to discuss potential censorship of certain YouTube videos. Specifically, videos that the Israeli state deems to “incite violence.”
In a Hebrew-only press release, Hotovely told Maariv that she had attended a meeting with Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO, as well as Google Director of Public Policy, Jennifer Oztzistzki in Mountain View. According to Hotovely, YouTube videos are the cause of children stabbing people on a daily basis. From AlterNet’s translation of the press release:
The attacks daily in Israel are the result of youths and children incited by the education system and the social networks, this is a daily war of incitement.
Google reportedly agreed to assist the Israel more in these matters, which is interesting in that Google eventually left China over censorship (among other problems). From Google’s official blog at the time they were getting started there:
Looking ahead, we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives I’ve outlined above, we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.
The objectives above were to “not be evil” and “not terminate the availability of our unfiltered Chinese-language Google.com service.” Eventually, Google China had so many problems that they had a mutual falling-out and Chinese traffic which managed to get outbound was redirected to a Hong Kong server.
In the case of Israel, it looks like things could be trickier. By agreeing with the Israeli state to make these sorts of modifications to its policies, Google is essentially giving the censors the keys. Determining what “incites violence” is a wholly subjective idea, for of course there are millions, if not billions, around the globe who believe that Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, along with illegal settlements, are the actual cause of violence against Israeli citizens. But the censorship request has, cleverly, not been made in a political manner. Instead, it just refers to some abstract “violence,” with a specific being “knife attacks.”
It just so happens that this request is taking place concurrently with an increase in uncensored videos from the Palestinian side of the conflict, some of which depict Israeli’s committing UN human rights abuses as well as murder. Are these the videos that Hotovely is concerned about? Or is she some modern Tipper Gore, worried about rap videos?
To paint the picture clearly: increased access to technology has created a problem for the Israeli occupation, in that formerly the state could reasonably censor all footage taken of the occupation, since all journalists are required to register with the Israeli government. Occasionally, uncomfortable footage leads to press credentials being pulled and outrage. (AlterNet says that all footage must be submitted to the Israeli military, but Hacked could not immediately verify this claim.) However, mobile phones and YouTube have created a situation where the GPO doesn’t have as much control over these things.
While it’s probably easier to attempt to censor online video than it is to modify the policies of the IDF, time will tell exactly how much, if any, YouTube actually complies with Israel’s requests. After all, the very purpose of YouTube and similar sites is for independent users across the world to record what’s going on around them. Raw, uncensored footage is the bread and butter of YouTube, and its impact on modern society is hard to calculate.
Image from Shutterstock.