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Censorship Your Rights Online

Two Ways Not To Handle Free Speech 686

Two stories in the news offer contrasting approaches by Web companies to questions of free speech. First YouTube: reader skraps notes that the Google property has recently banned the popular atheist commentator Nick Gisburne. Gisburne had been posting videos with logical arguments against Christian beliefs; but when he turned his attention to Islam (mirror of Gisburne's video by another user), YouTube pulled the plug, saying: 'After being flagged by members of the YouTube community, and reviewed by YouTube staff, the video below has been removed due to its inappropriate nature. Due to your repeated attempts to upload inappropriate videos, your account now been permanently disabled, and your videos have been taken down.' Amazon.com provides a second example of how to react to questions of free speech. Reader theodp sends along a story in TheStreet.com about how Amazon hung up on customers wanting to comment on its continuing practice of selling animal-fighting magazines. The article notes that issues of free speech are rarely cut-and-dried, and that Amazon is doing itself no favors by going up against the Humane Society.
Update: 02/11 04:25 GMT by KD : updated Nick Gisburne link to new account.
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Two Ways Not To Handle Free Speech

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  • So what (Score:3, Informative)

    by RichPowers ( 998637 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @09:42PM (#17967812)
    If YouTube decides that a video is offensive to a segment of its users, then it has every right to remove the video. Expecting free speech protection from a private entitity is a bit absurd. The local mall would throw my ass on the street if I stood inside protesting leather products.

    The lesson here? Host your videos somewhere else, provide your own video hosting service, or deal with YouTube's practices.

  • by MaverickUW ( 177871 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @09:45PM (#17967830)
    Okay, apparently half the posters don't understand what Freedom of Speech is all about. Google and Amazon are not the government (yet at least). The first amendment protects you from the government taking away your rights, not corporations and individuals. So what if Google removed a video, it's their property that he's posting it on. If they don't like something, they have a right to remove it. To say they don't have this right, would be like saying if someone put up a political sign in your yard of someone from the party you don't support, that you don't have a right to remove it because you're violating someone else's free speech.

    As for the Amazon case, sure, you have a right to call and complain. Nothing says that Amazon has to actually listen to you.

    In the end, these aren't issues of free speech. These are people getting their panties in a knot because someone wouldn't listen to them.
  • Re:Religion (Score:5, Informative)

    by nitroamos ( 261075 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @09:50PM (#17967870)
    The irony is that in the Cruelty in the Quran video the article is referring to, what's being presented are not quotes, but paraphrases. I took the liberty of looking up some of them, and although you can see where Gisbourne is getting his paraphrase, I'm not sure that he's always correct.

    For example, one of the slides at 5:06 references Sura 28:62-64. In my copy of (Yusuf Ali translation) the Quran, it is apparent that Gisbourne went ahead and helpfully replaced "them" with "Christians". Looking at the passage, it doesn't even appear to me that this is a correct paraphrase since I think Muhammad was addressing polytheists, not Christians. But I'm not an expert, so I don't know. Either way, Gisbourne made a logic jump there.

    I'm just refuting any claim that these are "quotes".
  • Re:Yeah, but (Score:3, Informative)

    by Redrover5545 ( 795810 ) <r.geoghegan@NosPam.gmail.com> on Saturday February 10, 2007 @09:58PM (#17967946)
    Actually, they have a constitutional right not to publish or host content, it's called the right of free press. Google, Amazon and any other companies owned by private individuals have the right to publish or not publish whatever they want and to force them to host or publish a message or a video would actually infringe on their (or more precisely their shareholder's) first amendment rights.
  • by adrianmonk ( 890071 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @10:18PM (#17968052)

    At first I thought Nick Gisburne might be this guy [youtube.com]. Fortunately, that video is still up. Hillarious and oh so telling.

    That video is about Mormons, not Christians. It's true that Mormons claim to be Christians, but that claim is very controversial and is not accepted by most of mainstream Christianity. There are literally thousands of different Christian groups, and to some extent they all reject some of the beliefs of others, but most groups accept that most of the others are in fact Christians. The hit rate with Mormonism, however, is very low, in both directions. That is, most Christian groups do not accept Mormonism as a form of Christianity, and Mormonism rejects most other groups as well.

    Of course, the question of who gets to define the term "Christian" is a complex one, but if you let the majority of people who apply it to themselves also be the ones who define it, then it probably doesn't include Mormonism.

    Also, one other telling difference is that most Christian groups use only the Bible as their sacred text. Mormonism also has the Book of Mormon, which (as I understand it) takes precedence in case the two disagree. The only other major difference between sacred texts within Christianity is over the exact canonization of the books within the Bible. Catholics have a few more than Protestants, and there are a few other differences here and there. But this is a comparatively minor difference: all books that Protestants and Catholics disagree on are from the same historical time period, and the disagreement is really more about authenticity and authorship than anything. If you categorize groups based on what their sacred text is, Mormonism has about as much similarity to Christianity as Islam has.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 10, 2007 @10:38PM (#17968208)

    If you categorize groups based on what their sacred text is, Mormonism has about as much similarity to Christianity as Islam has.

    I'm not so sure about that, Mormons do say that they "believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." (http://scriptures.lds.org/en/a_of_f/1) (see number 8) Different from most Christian demoninations, who believe the Bible to be absolutely perfect and the final word on everything, but I think that also shows more belief than a Muslim would have in the Bible.

    Just FYI.
  • by Derling Whirvish ( 636322 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @10:46PM (#17968258) Journal
    English-language translations of the Quran vary so widely that Islam doesn't accept them as translations, they are all regarded as paraphrases. You should read this short article [soundvision.com] to get a feel for how the various translations make errors.

    Here are some other translations of that same verse (Al-Qasas 28:62):

    Khalifa: The day will come when He calls upon them, saying, "Where are those idols you had set up beside Me?"

    Pickthall: On the day when He will call unto them and say: Where are My partners whom ye imagined?

    Shakir: And on the day when He will call them and say: Where are those whom you deemed to be My associates?

    Sher Ali: And on that day HE will call to them, and say, `Where are those whom you allege to be my associates?'

    Yusuf Ali: That Day (God) will call to them, and say "Where are my 'partners'?- whom ye imagined (to be such)?"

    Transliteration: Wayawma yunadeehim fayaqoolu ayna shuraka-iya allatheena kuntum tazAAumoona
  • by JacksBrokenCode ( 921041 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @11:06PM (#17968382)

    This Gisburne fellow posted quite a few videos about Christianity without any problems. It was only when he posted them against Islam that it became a problem, and that because a number of users flagged it. I'm guessing that what we are seeing here is not protection of religion, but protection is Islam.

    South Park has lampooned a multitude of religions since the first season. Last year Comedy Central (owned by Viacom) forced them to remove the image of Mohammad from an episode.

  • by boingo82 ( 932244 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @11:24PM (#17968536) Homepage
    Nick Gisburne's website [gisburne.com]

    His new YouTube profile [youtube.com]

    Unfortunately he hasn't reposted all of his videos (God's Magic Banana Factory was hilarious) but God willing, (ha) he will soon.

  • by Nick Gisburne ( 681796 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @11:33PM (#17968624) Homepage
    Hi there, I'm the Nick Gisburne of this story, and I have a new account now at YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/NickGisburne2000 [youtube.com]

    The full story is on there. If someone in Slashdot can change the story link to go there, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

    Nick Gisburne

  • by Sperbels ( 1008585 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @11:55PM (#17968780)
    Tell that to the Iraqis
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, 2007 @12:21AM (#17968956)
    "Didn't you know? You can't criticize Christianity or Islam because, hey, they are moral and righteous by definition."

    Funny, this article seemed to purport that criticizing Christianity was ok but criticizing Islam isn't.

    Welcome to the U.S., you must be new here.

    "When you try to challenge them on their texts (which many of them claim to be literally true), they say that phrases like "kill them" or "burn them with fire" don't really mean what they say because they "depend on context" or are "metaphorical"."

    1. Tell me where these passages exist in the bible.
    2. I'll tell you what they mean in an HISTORICAL CONTEXT. Then you may understand why they are there when they refer to people who were enslaved, persecuted and slaughtered.
    3. Context is everything no matter how much you want to deny it. Without context, I'm pretty sure you're either in a coma, a social misfit, or insane.

    "Never mind that Christians and Muslims alike have actually been practicing these words for centuries, literally killing and burning people who didn't submit to their beliefs."

    Funny thing there, a lot of people have been slaughtered because they didn't submit to a set of beliefs, religious or not. READ A HISTORY BOOK.

    "The Abrahamic religions invented moral relativism"

    I don't think you understand what moral relativism means.
    Having a set rule of moral laws is the exact opposite of moral relativism.
  • Re:So what (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, 2007 @12:31AM (#17969012)
    If YouTube decides that a video is offensive to a segment of its users, then it has every right to remove the video.

    If YouTube is going to bill itself as the place to express yourself, to get online and tell your story and make your argument, then it shouldn't be banning people because they just might offend a particular religious group.

    The story here is that big companies are now terrified of offending Muslims. For those companies with international interests, it is the hot potato that no one wants to touch. If a cartoon can cause people to riot, then imagine what will happen when some guy mis-characterizes the Koran.

    Free speech (linguistically speaking) is not just a matter between you and the government. It also respects your right to not be bopped over the head by a private individual because he disagrees with your speech. YouTube is acting out of its own fear of being bopped in the head.
  • by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @12:50AM (#17969114) Homepage
    Ah, a bit of digging reveals that the original quote is from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a Supreme Court Justice 1902-1932. The original quote was "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."
  • by mstah5 ( 1062600 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @01:28AM (#17969392)

    SCOTUS has ruled in Lee v. International Soc'y for Krishna Consciousness, Inc, holding unconstitutional a ban on leafleting in airport terminals.

    SCOTUS has ruled in Jews for Jesus, holding unconstitutional a ban that effectively prohibited, within an airport terminal, "talking" or "the wearing of campaign buttons or symbolic clothing" that was not "airport related," noting that "no conceivable governmental interest would justify such an absolute prohibition of speech"

    So an airport is a "public commons" even though it is usually private property. Why should YouTube be treated any differently?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, 2007 @01:35AM (#17969440)
    Not according to Parker and Stone. They have made it very clear, in interviews, that they were forceed to censor the episode.
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @01:35AM (#17969444) Homepage Journal
    was that the concept was taken seriously at all levels he saw and that proposals died quickly in meetings if someone questioned the ethical implications.

    That's "former employee", so it's not like he's defending the source of his paycheck.
  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @01:59AM (#17969568)
    Mod parent up! He's exactly right. Youtube can't afford to lose the safe harbor provisions as defined in the DMCA [wikipedia.org], or it will open itself up to massive copyright infringement claims.

    Any large community site like Youtube is full of copyrighted material, which means it is committing massive copyright infringement by allowing people to download those materials. The DMCA says (paraphrased) "don't look closely at what's on your site, and pull down promptly anything that someone claims is theirs, if you obey those rules then you can't be sued".

    So it's wrong to say that Youtube can do whatever they like simply because it's their private site. They can of course, but only if they don't care about being massively sued.

  • by DinobotPrime ( 920867 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @02:59AM (#17969884)
    Actually , there were a lot of white Christians that were enslaved during the height of Islamic expansion up to it's decline in the nineteenth century . The Barbary wars as well as the start of Europe aggressively attacking the slave traders during the 1800s ended that type of slavery .
  • by Lew Payne ( 592648 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @03:17AM (#17969958) Journal
    You're baffled as to why some people keep saying that Mormons aren't Christians?

    http://www.carm.org/lds/compare.htm [carm.org]

    http://www.godandscience.org/cults/mormdiff.html [godandscience.org]

    The last time I checked, Christianity was not founded on the Book of Mormon, nor was the Book of Mormon canonized! Last time I checked, the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost all referred to the triunal nature of God in Christianity, whereas in Mormonism they actually refer to three separate Gods. The last time I checked, Mormons believe in the existance of multiple Gods. In fact, Mormon men (never women, mind you) have a chance of becoming Gods in the after-life, and ruling over their own kingdom! You may want to believe that Mormons are Christian, but your belief is not founded on the plain-truth statements made by canonized Mormon literature, which includes the various bullshit prophecies revealed by the various LDS living prophets (equivalent to fortune-tellers for those of you not in-the-know).
  • by Tatarize ( 682683 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @03:31AM (#17970020) Homepage
    >>Aye, the King James version of the Bible does have some inaccuracies in the translation, but they have been corrected in more recent versions translated from the original Gree, Aramaic, hebrew, etc.

    It isn't that bad. Some of the newer versions hashed out the major problems. Somethings already were well enough accepted to be unfixable. Young woman being translated into virgin, using the name of the lord in vain rather than in a false oath. NIV might be better, but when referring to inaccuracies... many of them are not translation errors. They are contradictory in the original text as well.

    >>and because the original texts in the original languages are much more available to common people than in the 1600's (I believe that's the right century...),

    Actually the original texts in the original languages are just as unavailable as ever. We still don't have a copy of the original, not even a copy of a copy in the right language. We have a huge number of different versions from the 4th century which differ widely from each other. We also have some earlier fragments which also differ pretty widely.

    >>they can't exactly hide any intentional mistranslations anymore- there are enough (though not a whole lot)

    They didn't hide them exactly. For example, 2 Samuel 21:19, typically have the version (KJV) italicize "brother of" because the words "brother of" is simply added regardless of not being in the original text. They obviously realized that Elhanan killing Goliath would clash with the same story of David killing the same person. Other translations go ahead and ignore that and have Goliath die twice (as happens in the original text).

    >>And I'd have to disagree with your thesis that the Red Sea scrolls would be more accurate gospels than the ones we have today, since the scrolls contained only copies of the Torah and other books which are now part of the Old Testament

    The Red Sea scrolls have less editing than the modern versions we have. Accuracy is completely different as they all pretty well depict events that we are more and more sure did not happen. Archeology tends to disagree with the Bible when the two meet.

    >>and make absolutely no mention in Christ, as they were for the most part written before his ministry.

    The work dates to the late first century early second century. They are all written after "Christ's ministry" (mythicist quotes) -- Though, they probably do predate the Gospels which were written mid-second century or so.

    >>They do, however confirm the accuracy of Old Testament texts to at least Jesus' time, which was heartening for Christians and Jews.

    They no more confirm the accuracy of the OT than finding a first printing of Great Expectations would prove the existence of Pip.

    >>basically the equivalent of Jesus saying to love your neighbor, then turning around and commanding his disciples to stone the prostitute,

    The "don't throw stones" story is actually added in the 4th century.

    >>Oh, and I was not under the impression that Allah would have told Jesus to tell everyone he was the son of God, if he were only a prophet secondary in importance to Mohammad who would come later.

    Muslims do not hold that Jesus was the son of God, nor that Allah would have told him to say such. Rather that people later made that claim as they were misguided.

    >>Of course I also don't understand why Mohammed's followers would want to destroy those who follow another of Allah's prophets as infidels.

    You don't? Well, because Muslims are not followers of Mohammad. They are followers of Allah. If they were worshiping Muhammad they would be idolaters. Just as worshiping any prophet of Allah would be idolatry. Further, those who deify Jesus are accused by the Koran of making "Partners unto Allah" -- beyond idolatry this is blasphemy. Both are punishable by death. A quick read of the Koran would answer these questions for you.

    >>I know the Christians haven't ex
  • Re:The difference (Score:2, Informative)

    by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @07:44AM (#17971250) Homepage

    Noted peace activist turned Mulsim, Cat "Peace Train" Stevens, affirms that Rushdie should be killed.

    That's an absolutely vile misrepresentation of what Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) actually said. Here is what Yusuf had to say regarding the artificial controversy generated by the British tabloids.

    "I never called for the death of Salman Rushdie; nor backed the Fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini - and still don't. The book itself destroyed the harmony between peoples and created an unnecessary international crisis. When asked about my opinion regarding blasphemy, I could not tell a lie and confirmed that - like both the Torah and the Gospel - the Qur'an considers it, without repentance, as a capital offense. The Bible is full of similar harsh laws if you're looking for them[30]. However, the application of such Biblical and Qur'anic injunctions is not to be outside of due process of law, in a place or land where such law is accepted and applied by the society as a whole..." -- Yusuf Islam

    Yusuf is and always has been a kind and gentle person. His tireless work in helping children and the victims of war is an inspiration. He is a role model for how people should act towards each other. And it disgusts me that foul-minded bigots such as yourself would repeat those tabloid lies about him in an attempt to discredit an entire religion.

    It needs to take a break from bashing Christianity and recognize where the real danger lies

    The real danger comes from ignorant bigots.

  • by Nick Gisburne ( 681796 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @07:55AM (#17971300) Homepage
    The latest situation is that I posted 2 near-identical videos to YouTube, in the account I was forced to create after my original accounts and videos were removed:

    One contained information showing negative passages from the Qur'an
    One contained information showing negative passages from the Bible

    Their formats were similar, just the origin of the material differed.

    The Qur'an video has just been removed by YouTube and flagged as 'Content Inappropriate'
    The Bible video? It has not been touched. It's there now.

    YouTube is censoring any comment which puts Islam in a bad light. Negative Christian comments are being ignored.

    I have posted a new YouTube video about this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEaC6Azs9DE [youtube.com]

    And there is more information on my web site:

    http://www.gisburne.com/ [gisburne.com]

    Please contact YouTube with any protests you may have. This is censorship, and YouTube is caving in to pressure from Muslims, undeniably.

  • Re:The difference (Score:5, Informative)

    by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @09:13AM (#17971594)

    Here is what Yusuf had to say regarding the artificial controversy generated by the British tabloids.

    That could be a bit of revisionist history. Wikipedia has that quote, and some more [wikipedia.org]:

    "[Rather than go to a demonstration to burn an effigy of the author Salman Rushdie] I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing."

    "[If Rushdie turned up at my doorstep looking for help] I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I'd try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is."

    Those are based on a recorded TV show, referenced by a New York Times article. I checked the New York Times reference.

    And it disgusts me that foul-minded bigots such as yourself would repeat those tabloid lies about him in an attempt to discredit an entire religion.

    The New York Times is not a tabloid. And the fact remains that this "kind and gentle person" believes that a man should be put to death for blasphemy, because that is what his religion tells him.

  • by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:07AM (#17980140) Homepage Journal
    He made a claim about 'most denominations'. You declared him wrong, and as proof, offered one source about one denomination.

    One denomination, which just happens to be by far the largest. I provided far more evidence than him who offered no source at all.

    Other major denominations (orthodox and Anglican for example) share a similar point of view to the Catholic Church. This church on England document on training clergy [anglican.org] seems to take it for granted that there is a diversity of views on the authority of the bible (see page 9). The orthodx churches are more conservative but still far from taking a fundamentalist approach. [goarch.org]

    Of course if you modified his statement to "lots of tiny denominations, mostly American based or influenced, that are in no way representative of Christianity in general", I would have no problem with that.

    I can also tell you, with certainty, that many catholics believe the bible is without error, regardless of what the official policy of the higher ups in their organization may say.

    Yes, with hundreds of millions of Catholics in the world, I am sure you can find "many" stupid ones.

    I have been a Chatholic most of my life, and I have met very few who think that. You must only know particularly stupid or ignorant Catholics.

    Anyway, now I have produced multiple sources. Can you or the GP produce any?

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling