Sunday, May 25, 2008

Contempt For Free Speech


The Times editorializes in relation to Joseph Lieberman's attempts to coerce Google into deleting "videos produced by Islamist terrorist organizations or their supporters" from YouTube, and his apparent anger that they only removed videos that were not consistent with their terms of service,
While it is fortunate that Mr. Lieberman does not have the power to tell YouTube that it must remove videos, it is profoundly disturbing that an influential senator would even consider telling a media company to shut down constitutionally protected speech. The American Civil Liberties Union has warned that the “Homegrown Terrorism” bill and related efforts “could be a precursor to proposals to censor and regulate speech on the Internet.”

Not only do these efforts contradict fundamental American values, it is not clear if they would help fight terrorism. Even if YouTube pulled down every video Mr. Lieberman did not like, radical groups could post the same videos on their own Web sites. Trying to restrain the Internet is a game of “whack-a-mole” that cannot be won, says John Morris of the Center for Democracy and Technology. Having the videos on YouTube may even be a good thing, because it makes it easier for law enforcement officials, the media and the public to monitor the groups and their messages.
The Times seems to be missing the forest for the trees. The issue here probably isn't so much Lieberman's fear of terrorism. It's likely more a manifestation of Lieberman's ignorance of and contempt for the First Amendment.

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