Google fights terrorism

Google are hosting a summit “against violent extremism”, in an effort to combat global terrorism; but why Google?

The Daily Telegraph says more than 135 videos were taken down last year from the Google-owned site YouTube, at the request of US and UK governments for “national security reasons”.

The requests, and Google’s plans for an anti-terror summit, are evidence that terrorism and national security are concerns in our online world too. US and UK politicians criticised YouTube for hosting extremist propaganda last year; the presence of these videos indicating that these concerns are very real. But to what extent should politicians and governments be able to decide what is fit for viewing?

The Australian government already regulates every form of information dissemination, some more heavily than others. For commercial and exclusive media outlets (such as commercial television) this is understandable. But the internet, and particularly YouTube, is a democratic and open platform for the public to forward their views. Should the government be able to decide what can and cannot be viewed on YouTube?

Google’s decision to host an anti-terror summit is interesting for another reason. It is indicative of a changing media landscape, and a changing internet culture. It is the same activism that was seen in the KONY 2012 campaign, on a corporate level.

This seems to be a growing trend. Facebook recently introduced a feature to help people sign up as organ donors, again showing the changing internet landscape. It is changing in the media realm too. Stories are broken on social media sites and information, sources and opinions are often taken from the same sites. Considering the tool the internet is for spreading information and airing opinions, how much should we allow governments to become involved?

Governments are aware of the power of the internet as a tool for information (and for propaganda). Journalists should be watching closely whenever the government attempts to exert its influence over the internet, and critically question if its doing so is necessary. As the last democratic and open source of information, the internet needs to be protected from the interests of governments and corporations.

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