Saudi Arabia has called for a new international body to censor the internet, in the wake of the anti-Islam YouTube clip that recently sparked violence in the Middle East.
By Christopher Williams, Technology Correspondent
3:45PM BST 11 Oct 2012
In a submission to forthcoming international talks on internet governance, the Gulf state said “there is a crying need for international collaboration to address ‘freedom of expression’ which clearly disregards public order”.
During the controversy over a 14-minute clip posted on YouTube and purportedly a trailer for a feature film called “The Innocence of Muslims”, Google resisted pressure, including from the White House, to remove it.
“This video – which is widely available on the web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube,” Google said last month.
The Saudi government has now told the World Telecommunications Policy Forum, a UN body, that the incident was “an obvious example” of the need for greater international cooperation to restrict content online.
“Any reasonable person would know that this film would foment violence and, indeed, many innocent persons have died and been injured with this film as a root cause,” the Saudi submission said.
The amateurish clip, produced on tiny budget by Nakoula Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian Coptic Christian resident in the United States, depicts the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and sexual deviant.
In the uproar surrounding it, there were violent protests in across the Middle East and North Africa, coinciding with an attack by extremists on the American Embassy in Benghazi. The Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other officials were killed.
Following the attack Google did restrict access to “The Innocence of Muslims” clip in Egypt and Libya on account of “the very difficult situation”, but maintained its refusal to delete it. The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan meanwhile ordered internet providers to completely cut off access to YouTube.
The Saudi government called for greater international cooperation to censor such material at the source, comparing it to outlawed content such as images of child abuse and malicious software.
“This behaviour, along with other malicious and criminal activities such as child pornography, identity theft, spam, denial of service attacks, and malware aimed at destroying or crippling businesses, inter alia, must be addressed by states in a collaborative and cooperative environment and strongly underscores the need for enhanced cooperation,” it said.
The submission highlights increasing interest in internet governance discussions from nations that do not share Western liberal values, as access to and the influence of the web grows.