Kudos to Google for refusing to bow down to Joe Lieberman's attempts to censor youtube. It's a slippery slope one starts down when one starts to censor and Lieberman seems happy to grease the slide with his efforts.
The NY Times writes, today,
The Internet is simply a means of communication, like the telephone, but that has not prevented attempts to demonize it — the latest being the ludicrous claim that the Internet promotes terrorism.
Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is trying to pressure YouTube to pull down videos he does not like, and a recent Senate report and a bill pending in Congress also raise the specter of censorship. It is important for online speech to be protected against these assaults.
Mr. Lieberman recently demanded that YouTube take down hundreds of videos produced by Islamist terrorist organizations or their supporters. YouTube reviewed the videos to determine whether they violated its guidelines, which prohibit hate speech and graphic or gratuitous violence. It took down 80 videos, but left others up. Mr. Lieberman said that was “not enough,” and demanded that more come down.
Earlier this month, the Senate homeland security committee, which is led by Mr. Lieberman, issued a report titled “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat.” The report identified the Internet as “one of the primary drivers” of the terrorist threat to the United States.
All of this comes against the backdrop of a troubling Congressional antiterrorism bill that also focuses on the Internet. The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, which passed the House last year by a 404-to-6 vote, would establish a commission to study the terrorist threat and propose legislation. The bill, which the Senate has not acted on, has a finding that the Internet promotes radicalization and terrorism.
The NY Times reports that the committee didn't call for restricting free speech, but did discuss the need for “what, if any, new laws” should be enacted. The Times concludes, "no new laws are needed — or justifiable — any more than it would be tolerable to enact laws restricting speech over the telephone, in a newspaper or a book, on a street corner, or in a church, mosque or synagogue."
Just as many right wing supporters are willing to give up their rights to privacy, usuall, with the explanation that they personally have nothing to hide, this approach to cutting into the essential right to free expression could be defended by suggesting that people who are not terrorists have nothing to worry about. This is incredibly dangerous. As the loyal opposition, in a time when opposition has been attacked as unpatriotic or even aiding the enemy, entering this slippery censorship slope could lead to the squelching of all protest.
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.
Terrorism is a real concern. All Americans know that. They also know that if we give up our fundamental rights, the terrorists win. If people use speech to engage in criminal acts, they should be prosecuted. Cutting off free speech is never the right answer.
Lieberman is really going further and further in taking the place of neanderthalcon Zell Miller, the most toxic, offensive troglodyte faux "Democrat" the senate has seen in recent years. Unfortunately, there are plenty more of his type, not quite as bad, but almost equally willing to shed the values and principles of Democracy. In the house, they call themselves Bluedogs. Fortunately, there are many in the blogosphere who are taking these sellout right wing faux Dems on. Donna Edwards did it in Maryland and that should just be the beginning.
Unfortunately, the last three debacles for Republicans, where they lost long held Republican congressional seats, the Dems who won them are Bluedog types. Sure, it's an improvement, but it also changes the composition of the Democratic party, making it more conservative. It is, therefore, essential, that progressives take aggressive action to push the party to the left. Failure to do so will actually allow MORE people like Joe LIeberman gain influence in congress. That would be bad news in a year when there should be a lot of good news.
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