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YouTube Holy War? Updated

By - February 11, 2007

Apparently this fellow made a video showing violent quotes from the Koran, putting the holy book in a bad light. It was a slide show, that’s it, no commentary. YouTube banned his account and pulled all his videos. He’s an atheist, but not a nut. This is a bad precedent. His explanation is in the video above. Interesting where I found this – Xooglers, the blog run by ex-Google employees. From that post:

This really bothers me for four reasons. First, to deem quotations from a holy text to be “inappropriate content” is outrageous on its face. Second, Gisburne was given no warning. Third, YouTube didn’t just delete the video in question, they deleted Gisburne’s entire account. And fourth, this makes a mockery of Google’s “don’t be evil” slogan. There can be no possible reason for this action other than caving to intimidation, and sanctimonious cowardice in the face of oppression is a particularly pernicious breed of evil.

This story got Slashdotted as well, here.

Update: YouTube has posted a clarification here. It leaves me still wondering what happened, but it seems there was some kind of violation of DMCA/Copyright stuff. I’ve asked for more info…

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23 thoughts on “YouTube Holy War? Updated

  1. Judson says:

    Yes, this is completely unacceptable.

  2. d says:

    does anyone have a list of the quotations that were in the video?

  3. Kamal Jain says:

    Freedom in web2.0 age is a tricky issue. The only way to ensure it is to make sure that there is no dominating player controlling the access to information. Be it Google, be it Yahoo, be it Microsoft or be it a start-up.

    The dilemma is the following. Web 2.0 companies have networking effect. This effect naturally tends to create a dominating company. Sometimes out of shear luck! I guess this fellow has no other effective choice than Youtube.

  4. SorenG says:

    Geez, it must have meant a lot to the Xooglers to get them posting again after so long. I had been wondering what had happened to them . ..

  5. Larry says:

    And in a possibly related move…

    .. Amazon considers “Mehdi” to be “inappropriate language” when composing a listmania list.

    I find that out the hard way, after creating a lengthy listmania list (of speakers at an upcoming interfaith event) which featured a video called “Inside Mecca” by someone named Mehdi. Amazon sells the video, and even features it on Unbox; but I can’t mention the name “Mehdi” on my list. Of course, other than the cryptic “Inappropriate language has been used”, I had no indication what the inappropriate language.

    According to Wikipedia, Mehdi refers to the Islamic equivalent of the Messiah; it’s also the name of one of the current Iraqi militias. But it’s also a rather common name in at least parts of the Muslim world.

    So why is Mehdi a dirty word? Who decided? And why don’t they tell us before we prepare a complicated list?

  6. Farhan Memon says:

    As a citizen journalist, and someone who is also Muslim I can see both sides of this issue.
    What if Mr. Gisburne had taken controversial passages from the Old Testament and entitled the slide show “Jewish Teachings: Cruelty from the Bible.” Would YouTube be criticized for combating antisemitism?

    What if the KKK uploaded a video that contained versus from the Bible which justified their view that non-White people were inherently inferior? Would YouTube be criticized for combating racism?

    Theere is a deep well of Islamaphobia that pervades our society. Doubtlessly the quotations that Mr. Gisburne chose were presented without any historical context and of course displayed Muslims and their beliefs in the poorest light.

    Nevertheless in a medium where anyone can easily produce and upload content perhaps the marketplace of ideas is the best way to combat controversial speech. Mr. Gisburne’s views may be offensive to Muslims like me, but putting a muzzle on him will only deepen his animosity to Muslims.

    As a law graduate I think the bigger problem Google may face is that it may have inadvertently opened itself for slander and defamation law suits. Federal law protects online information services so long as they do not act as an editor in selecting or deselecting content. Here Google made a conscious decision not to carry Mr. Gisburne. I wonder what happens the next time the subject of a user-uploaded video sues not only the creator but also Google?

  7. mb says:


    Mr. Gisburne had posted many videos critical of Christianity and other religions, but his account was deleted after posting a slideshow of verses from the Quran.

    As with banning books, sometimes censorship just brings more attention to the material. Ironic, isn’t it?

  8. farhanmemon says:

    I am not familiar with Mr. Gisburne’s other videos but I would say a couple of things:

    1. I think you’re right sometimes censorship does bring more attention to the material, but isn’t that always the case with objectionable material. The quandary for any 2.0 provider is either to manage their site so that it is respectful environment for everyone, or to just let the users police themselves. I think that this is a difficult tightrope that any community owner has to walk.

    2. As much as people believe that they can post anything they want in an open forum, I think that this is a reminder that posting is a privilege not a right. By posting to YouTube/Google users agree to abide by certain terms of service. One of these is not to upload pirated material — which YouTube is beginning to fight at the behest of copyright owners. The other is not to post hateful speech. The fact that it was a video about Muslims that broke the camel’s back and got Mr. Gisburne banned is interesting, but perhaps we then ought to focus our attention on the fact that Mr. Gisburne was attacking monotheists as a group. Either way Google could have removed one video, but I guess they saw all of his videos and decided the whole lot had to go.

    Once again you would expect them to host KKK TV or Hitler TV on there site would you? I think the same goes then for hosting I Hate Christians TV or I Hate Muslim TV. Tightrope but someone has to walk it.

  9. Don Singleton says:

    Is criticism of any religion offensive to YouTube, or only criticism of Islam? Will they be removing the many videos they have up criticial of Jews and Judiasm? What about criticisms of Christianity?

  10. Erik says:

    How long until there is a hastily written addition to the mandate of “Don’t be evil” to make it read “Don’t be evil, all the time”?

    This is a very bad precedent and Google should be taken to task over this.

    Maybe YouTube needs another mechanism to make potentially offensive content sit behind another opt-in radiobox?

  11. Brandon Hoffman says:

    This is a pretty scary sign of things to come. if google doesnt like a website would they pull it from the index? What happened to user experience? It certainly isnt a good user experience to click a link to a video that doesnt work. Google has to take a side here. Are they going to police the worlds information or provide it to us?

  12. Mike says:

    Google’s sensitivities towards China and Muslims would be commendable if they applied the same censorship criteria to the way President Bush and our own government is characterized on the sites.
    Don’t offend the Chinese and Islamic extemists but go ahead and blast our own President in a time of war?

  13. roooth says:

    Farhanmemon & mb,

    Interesting dialogue between you two. May I join in with an observation?

    Don’t virtually all “sacred” texts share the same common factors:

    1. The people for whom they are written are special and blessed by their own personal diety.

    2. They are called upon by their diety to obey certain rules.

    3. There is always a group of “others”, those who are not members of the special group.

    4. The “others” are always not as good, not as special, not as dear to the diety as the chosen group.

    5. The “others” can be treated differently, even abused, enslaved and/or wiped out with the full consent of the diety – as long as the diety’s other rules are followed.

    Am I missing something or do all sacred texts get used as excuses for all kinds of bad behavior?

  14. roooth says:

    Mike said: “Google’s sensitivities towards China and Muslims would be commendable if they applied the same censorship criteria to the way President Bush and our own government is characterized on the sites.
    Don’t offend the Chinese and Islamic extemists but go ahead and blast our own President in a time of war?”

    Mike, I know it’s hard for some Bush Cultists to understand this, but really, insulting Bush – even ripping him a new one – does not equal insulting someone’s religion.

    I know there are a lot of Bush Cultists who want to equate criticism of Bush with sacrilege, but it’s not. Bush isn’t the Second or any other Coming, he is not here because a wrathful Old Testament God wants him to start WWIII, or bring on Armegeddon. He’s the worst, most dangerous president we’ve ever had. He deserves more criticism than he gets. He deserves a trial in the Hague.

    It’s also a favorite Catch 22 from the extreme right-wing to say we shouldn’t “blast” Bush because we’re in a war. How convenient, since Bush is the only reason we’re involved in this illegal war against a country which did not and could not attack us, saying that the war he started is reason for squelching all criticism of him works only to benefit – Bush! My, isn’t that just about as handy as a pocket on a shirt.

    We’re in this war for one reason and one reason only; because the Bush Administration wanted it. They lied to get their way and hundreds of thousands are dead because of it. The people behind 9/11 are still free and Bush isn’t even trying to catch them. And now he wants another war in Iran.

    Support him until he ruins this country, that’s your right. But don’t expect silence from the rest of us. Your boy’s a war criminal and a mass murderer.

  15. kay says:

    In fact, Youtube DOES contain some seriously antisemitic material – and some of it is objectively far worse than what has been described, because it is demonstrably false. Not /misleading/ but /false/.

  16. tom says:

    the youtube blog may be talking political youtube accounts getting banned, which are probably repeat offenders.

  17. MikeM says:

    “Your boy’s a war criminal and a mass murderer.”

    Suggested reading, “The Looking Tower” by Lawrence Wright.

    The enemy is concentrating it’s forces in Iraq and our bravest are taking the brunt for us. Author Wright points out quite nicely how embeded cells here are stalled while the war is taken to Arab ground. Obviously this war effort is lost on the majority of the “vocal” community.

    In the alternative, Rooth maybe you will look good in a Burka, don’t know.

  18. ateeq says:

    Rooth says “Am I missing something or do all sacred texts get used as excuses for all kinds of bad behavior?”

    All organized societies based on a concept of any kind of unity tend to have extremist within them. Do religious text primarily get abused by fascists/extremists/nihilists? No, because the moral fulcrum of any society requires that these above mentioned folk not get the respect that is accorded to the productive members of society. I think, the arguments that religion is evil is specious at best. Of course, no personal disrespect is intended for your opinion.

    ateeq ahmad

  19. N Ahmed says:

    Muslims themselves have done so many translations of Quran that they have divisions among them becuase of the translations. Showing particular islamic verses, by pikcing up literal meaning, not considering the circumtances, the environment and era, is not helping anyone, rather creating more problems. I agree the vedios shouldnt be removed or account shouldn’t be suspended by you tube but i wonder what purpose these things serve, when they are not authentic?


  20. Dorian says:

    and now THIS video is unavailable. what are we to think of that?

  21. VIDEO GONE! says:

    ouch, this video is not here. can someone host it?

  22. VIDEO GONE! says:

    if you want to research the books that the quotes are from, go here:

    this contains the two most important hadith collections in full (buhkari and muslim)

    This site is entirely without comment so just read and make up your own mind

  23. angela says:

    what does it mean when ur account has been suspended? it this temp or perm? just curious….please advise…