Jihad comes to Google Video

Turning from its network of jihadist sites, an insurgent cell delivers anti-American video on Google. What does it mean for civil liberties?

John Robb points to a video, which is hideous and awful, posted on Google Video that touts the mission of snipers who kill U.S. troops. it We live in very strange and troubling times, but the least of our troubles is the expression of repulsive ideas.is described on Google Video as "Sniper(s) carries out attacks in Baghdad against allied forces. Skilled sniper or sniper team is said to be named "Juba" and supposedly operates in southern Baghdad, Iraq."

I'm not going to point to it, because I don't want to endorse its message in any way. However, it raises some interesting questions:

  • Having watched the first couple minutes of the video, which made me sick to my stomach, am I now on a U.S. government watch list?
  • Can Google be subpoenaed to identify who posted it? It is, after all and despite the wretchedness of the content, an act of free expression. The self-evident answer is "Yes, anyone can receive a subpoena," but the issue is whether the subpoena would be Constitutional.
  • Would we even know it was issued, as Google isn't inclined to discuss when it cooperates with government?
  • Does Google store the IP addresses of viewers of the clip? (The answer, based on the company's response to the Department of Justice subpoena last fall is likely "yes.") Will the government stop before it goes to any length to get that information?

Finally, it's repulsive footage and it's the enemy's propaganda, but it is just information. It shouldn't be censored. A free society can't pick and choose its discourse, its members can only vote with attention and energy for the ideas they and, collectively, the society endorses, otherwise it is no longer free.

I'm not giving this video a link, but I'm not upset that Google hosts it, because we don't need censorship in any form to protect us from these snipers.

We live in very strange and troubling times, but the least of our troubles is the expression of repulsive ideas. 


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