– YouTube Under Siege –

It seems now that on a daily basis someone is trying to fight YouTube. One of the recent complaints has come from India and the uproar caused over the following video.

(Warning: the following video contains scenes which some may consider offensive)

Apparently YouTube has taken the incident under advisement while India considers whether or not it will attempt a country-wide block, reminiscent of Brazil’s failed attempt during the Daniela Cicarelli sex tape controversy. I am reminded of the South Park episode, in which Comedy Central edited out images of the Prophet Mohammad, where Trey Parker and Matt Stone stated that if you set restrictions who can be made fun of in one case, you loose the ability to parody anyone and anything. (By the way, Mohammad was featured in an earlier South Park, you can find the image here along with Jesus, Buddha and Joseph Smith).

Given the importance of free, independent information and thought, where can privacy exist in the Web 2.0 world. A recent article in Forbes describes the challenges of information wrangling.

Safekeeping information – video, photographs, documents – will become even tougher
with the emergence of additional “Web 2.0” services designed for users to easily share data. Society may have good reasons – such as privacy, security or taste – for wanting to keep the lid on some types of information, but it only takes one individual to overrule that desire.

This ability to overrule becomes a problem when it turns to online vigilantism as in the following story.

Last month, Eva Burgess was eating breakfast at the Rose Cafe in Venice, Calif., when she remembered she needed to make an appointment with her eye doctor. So the New York theater director got on her cellphone and booked a date.

Almost immediately, she started receiving “weird and creepy” calls directing her to a blog. There, under the posting “Eva Burgess Is Getting Glasses!” her name, cellphone number and other details mentioned in her call to the doctor’s office were posted, along with the admonition, “next time, you might take your business outside.” The offended blogger had been sitting next to Burgess in the cafe.

Where there seems to be a benefit for social justice, as is the case for sites such as Cop Watch Los Angeles which attempts to call attention to incidents of police brutality, what if anything can be done about personal attacks? Take for example the grief attack on Anshe Chung, SecondLife resident’s Ailin Graef’s alter ego, where giving an interview to CNET in the online virtual world she was attacked by flying penises and doctored pornographic images of herself. The entire incident was recorded and posted to YouTube, prompting a DCMA complaint to have the material removed. The material in question is now blocked by YouTube’s terms of service, however the attention has led to the footage having been uploaded to several other sites.*

For most, there appears to be very little legal recourse if what is published or posted is true. Most hosting companies are willing to remove personal identifying information such as phone numbers, addresses and license plates if requested.

– Hey, You Have a Pool! –

With all the talk of online video and photos, it is easy to see how one could get lost, just worrying about what may be posted on YouTube, GoogleVideo and Flickr. Let’s consider how another platform, such as Google Earth, can lead to some common situations as well as political turmoil. There have been some reports of tax assessors utilizing the software to look for unreported or new structure such as pools and garages that add property value or for which proper permits were not obtained. Even though most county assessors have access to GIS satellite data, using the freeware program seems somehow dishonest and inappropriate, of course who hasn’t looked at their neighbors backyard?

Now if you are worried about your neighbors checking out your backyard, how would you feel if you were the royal family in Bahrain? The Bahrain Ministry of Information recently attempted to block the countries citizens from using Google Earth. It seems the citizens were using the software to peer onto the grounds of the royal family. You see the disparity between the royals and the average citizen is pushing a large equality drive, apparently the internet can spread the notion of democracy and capitalism. A citizen sees a prince with a multi-million dollar estate and he wants one to.

– Concluding Thoughts –

So where does this leave us? It is apparent that actual social benefits exist to leaving the signal uninterrupted. As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, domestic and foreign policy may be affected for the better. In the time when every single person is subject to online scrutiny, one must ask the question, does our increasing ability to communicate fall under the popular notion “too much of a good thing?”

* Note: For those wondering why I posted the video of Miss Cicarelli and not the griefing attack on Mrs. Chung, let me explain. If you are a celebrity and decide to have sex on a public beach in view of several people, you have little ground to stand on in the case of privacy, if on the other hand, someone alters a photograph of a person, making it appear as if the person is participating in various sex acts, that is inappropriate regardless of which society you live in.