Google blocks access to anti-Islam film in Singapore

Search giant prevents YouTube users in the city-state from watching trailers of anti-Islam movie "Innocence of Muslims" on government's request, which follows in the footsteps of neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia.

SINGAPORE--Google has blocked YouTube users in Singapore from viewing trailers of the anti-Islamic film "Innocence of Muslims" on its site upon requests from local authorities.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) revealed in a statement Wednesday it had asked the Media Development Authority (MDA) to request Google to stop online access to the trailers. Google on Thursday complied and took the video clips down.

When ZDNet Asia tried accessing the trailers on YouTube, a message read "This content is not available in your country due to a government removal request".

Explaining its decision, the MHA stated: "The film has sparked off violent protests and riots that resulted in deaths and injuries in many parts of the world, including several countries in our region. The continued circulation of this film is likely to cause disharmony or feelings of ill-will between different groups in Singapore."

The search engine operator has also blocked access to the video in neighboring countries Malaysia and Indonesia, according to separate news reports.

When approached by ZDNet Asia, a Google spokesperson said: "We have clear community guidelines and when videos breach those rules, we remove them. In addition, where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we will restrict access to it after a thorough review."

The U.S.-produced "Innocence of Muslims" has angered Muslims and sparked riots in cities across the world as it wrongly and negatively portrayed the Prophet Muhammad.

Limited impact
Muslims in Singapore expressed relief at the blocking of the anti-Islam video clips but acknowledged this will not curb the spread of the film through alternative platforms.

Fazli Zainudin, a videographer, said what Google did is a "good thing" as it prevented more people from watching the trailers. However, censorship does not stop word-of-mouth representation of the film, although this reduces the offense felt as "hearing about it is not as bad as watching it", he explained. 

Rafiq Jalil, too, agreed negative consequences such as protests can be prevented through the censorship. But it is "pointless" because there are other means to watch the movie. "People will always find a way around it," the freelance writer said.  

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