YouTube has made the controversial decision to censor a video in Egypt and Libya that was widely reported to have sparked an attack on the Libyan consulate that killed a US ambassador and three others. The video in question is a short trailer of a glaringly low budget film, Innocence of Muslims, that, aside from being in extremely poor taste, depicts the Muslim prophet Muhammed in an offensive manner. Although CNN now reports that the attacks were likely not in reaction to the video, YouTube has stood by its decision to geographically censor the trailer, and a spokesperson provided us with the following statement:
"We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video—which is widely available on the Web—is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries. Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered in Tuesday’s attack in Libya".
YouTube's self-censorship is a rare occurrence, and may have been a response to reports that the site was blocked in its entirety in Afghanistan because of the trailer. Regardless of the company's reasoning, YouTube's decision to temporarily censor the video raises important questions about whether the service should police content or remain a neutral hosting platform.