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Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Why Isn't YouTube Following Its Own Rules on Hate Speech?

The hosting provider for the “Burn a Koran Day” church pulled their site. So why hasn’t Google?

  • September 9, 2010

Rackspace, the enterprise hosting solution started in 1998 that is also the greatest thing to come out of San Antonio, TX since the movie Selena launched J-Lo’s career, has pulled the hosting accounts of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The Dove Center, for those of you who have been living beyond the event horizon of a black hole, is the home of pastor Terry “civil war re-enactor mustache” Jones, who this Saturday was going to burn around 200 copies of the Quran until half the Obama administration, all major world religions and the Vatican asked him not to.

Rackspace’s reasoning was simple: the center’s site, now down but still visible in Google’s cache, violated the contract all their hosting clients sign - which forbids hate speech.

YouTube also forbids hate speech. And Google has wisely provided an easy means to flag videos that constitute hate speech.

So why are the Dove World Outreach Center’s many, many videos, under the heading The Braveheart Show, still on YouTube?

Google defines hate speech like this:

Speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity

This could easily be a case of differing standards. Rackspace, after all, made a judgement call in pulling the Dove Center’s site. But considering YouTube’s considerable reach and the fact that The Braveheart Show constituted the majority of the content on the center’s now-defunct site, it’s hard to see how Google could be applying standards that are substantially different from those outlined at Rackspace.

Rackspace’s Acceptable Use Policy reads:

You may not publish, transmit or store on or via Rackspace’s network and equipment any content or links to any content that Rackspace reasonably believes:

* is excessively violent, incites violence, threatens violence, or contains harassing content or hate speech

Rackspace does not go as far as Google - it doesn’t define hate speech, but by any reasonable definition, the invective contained in the videos posted by Terry “Yosemite Sam” Jones fit the bill.

We’ll see what Google does next. It seems possible, even likely, that were the company to intercede in this case, it might open the floodgates, forcing them to police YouTube content to an extent they’d rather not, given the scope of hate speech in the comments of YouTube videos, much less the videos themselves.

Follow Mims on Twitter or contact him via email.

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