Some thoughts on the YouTube ban

The Guardian's Brian Whitaker has highlighted YouTube's decision to block the Egypt torture videos page, which we recently covered. In his post Brian says points how this removes a crucial tool at the hands of bloggers to distribute and publicize cases of human rights abuses and build a campaign against Egypt's systematic use of torture.

Reading the comments on the post, there is legitimate discussion that footage of gratuitous violence violates YouTube's terms of use and that it may not be the most appropriate place for these videos for other reasons (since most of its content is essentially funny home videos). Fair enough. Some people suggested that rights groups should be hosting the videos, which seems like a good idea (although it might limit their reach, since way more people visit youtube.com than amnesty.org). That's a good idea too, except that rights groups, even the big ones, don't really have the kind of technology necessary to handle traffic spikes and maintain video databases (which I assume means buying license rights to various software, codecs, etc.)

So here's an idea: why not encourage YouTube, Google Video and others to provide their expertise to maintain servers for activists, separately from their commercial products if necessary? This would be a great vote of confidence in web companies, especially after the fiasco of Yahoo and Google selling out to China in recent years. Don't want their names on it? Fine. But they have technology and resources that have radically transformed the away activists can break news and mobilize international interest. So rather than sticking to just "don't be evil," how about some "be good"?
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.