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Egypt: YouTube Disables Activist's Account

A storm is brewing in the Egyptian blogosphere after video hosting site YouTube removed several videos featuring policemen torturing victims from their site.

“This is by far the biggest blow to the anti-torture movement in Egypt,” writes Wael Abbas, an award winning blogger, whose videos capturing the torture of victims at the hands of police were removed from YouTube.

Warning: This video contains graphic images which may not be suitable for all viewers

Abbas (Ar) further explains:

أوقف موقع يوتيوب حسابي الخاص والذي يحتوى على جميع لقطات الفيديو التي حملتها من تغطيات للمظاهرات وأحداث أخرى ومنها خصوصا فيديوهات التعذيب في أقسام الشرطة
وقد ادعى موقع يوتيوب بان وصلته كثير من الشكاوى بشان هذا المحتوى
وانا الآن في حالة صدمة مما حدث وأحاول معرفة أسبابه
وقد راسلت الموقع في إنتظار التوضيح
لكن كل الإحتمالات قائمة
شكاوى كيدية من النظام المصري خصوصا بعد صفعة حبس إسلام نبيه
تعاون بين يوتيوب والنظام المصري في ظل صفقة ما خصوصا وأن يوتيوب مملوكة لشركة جوجل
فهل هو خطأ يمكن إصلاحه
أم أن يوتيوب أصبحت تدعم التعذيب وتتستر على فاعليه وتتعاون مع الحكومات الديكتاتورية
وفي النهاية أقول أن هذه كارثة كبري
ليس لي فقط ولكن لكم جميعا مدونين وقراء ونشطاء
وأطلب منكم جميعا الوقوف معي
YouTube has suspended my private account, which contains all the video footage which I have uploaded including the coverage of demonstrations and other events, particularly the videos showing torture at police stations. YouTube claims that it had received complaints from people over their content and I am now in a state of shock over what had happened and am trying to understand the reasons for it. I have written to the site and am awaiting some clarification from them but the situation is open to all possibilities. Those could include trumped up complaints from the Egyptian government, especially after the slap they received with the jailing of Islam Nabih or the coopertaion of YouTube with the Egyptian regime as part of a deal, especially that YouTube is now owned by Google. Is it a mistake that can be rectified or is YouTube now supporting torture and covering up on those who commit it and is cooperating with dictatorships? At the end, all I have to say is that this is a major catastrophe not to me only but to all bloggers, readers and activists. I appeal to you to stand besides me.

Blogger Hossam El Hamalawy chimes in, describing the removal of the videos as a “unbelievable”. He adds:

YouTube has just disabled probably the most important channel for the Egyptian blogosphere. Wael’s videos have been central in the fight against police brutality, and YouTube should be proud the Egyptian anti-torture activists have been using its channels in the current War on Torture… but instead, the YouTube administrators played a cat-and-mouse game with us.

El Hamalawy also suggests moving to other hosting sites to continue the anti-torture battle. He writes:

It’s necessary at the moment to start diversifying the tools we use in uploading videos to the web. The response to (what) YouTube is throwing at us will be simply a slow migration from using its service…

Commenting on this post, blogger Mostafa Hussein says that YouTube was within its right to remove the videos. He explains:

Well, the message from youtube is that waelabbas violated their terms of use.
This is actually true if you take a look at it. It states that content should follow the community guidelines[1]. In these community guidelines, there is this statement saying “Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don’t post it.”
This actually means that any video aimed at displaying state violence or torture against civilians will eventually be removed.
Simply, this means that YouTube is NOT the proper tool for this job. And Waelabbas and others posting similar content, should look for a websites, that don’t have similar terms. Or a website that is activist friendly, something similar to Indymedia or others.

Others are however not satisfied, and The Big Pharaoh is calling on supporters to campaign against the closure of the Abbas’ account. He pleads with his readers:

I’m breaking my blogging siesta to report this and ask you to please e-mail YouTube. YouTube has suspended Wael Abbas’ account for reasons that no one can understand. Wael Abbas is an anti-torture activist who posts videos of Egypt’s police brutality. These videos are the only mean to expose what happens in our police stations, without them the cry of people who were subjected to torture will go unheard. I really don’t understand why YouTube took this decision. I am counting on you.

The Committee to Protect Bloggers also has its say on the matter here.

  • Mostafa is right, it’s a bit iffy in light of the youtube ToS. However, rather than make them pull the videos that ought to make youtube rethink their priorities.

    youtube is the de facto video sharing platform despite the proliferation of alternatives; this thing should raise as much of a stink as colluding with the Chinese government did.

  • shane

    It is scary that youtube is trying to show a censored version of what is really going on. These are the types of videos that people from around the world need to see in order for something to be done about it. Youtube has an amazing potential of being an unfiltered voice for the victims of the world; granted there will always be 12 year olds vloging about what they want for their birthday, I think we need to make sure that it remains a free forum.
    Moreover if you think of the logic being employed by youtube it becomes quite troubling. They have taken an ambivalent stance regarding these torture victims and said that the footage is improper to be shown around the world. The problem, however, is that people are being sheltered from what is going on and youtube is preventing prospective viewers from taking meaningful action.

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  • The notion of “Freedom of Media” in the West is an illusion. The western media have double standards when dealing with the issue.

  • lane cyphers

    This is most unfortunate. Their is much violence on tv and in the movies. Yet we can not post ‘real’ violence that is wrongful. Unfortunately I believe governments are pressuring no free press. Even in the West, the media is influenced by power and politics. I hope the Internet can be used to unite people. I am from the US where I believe our democracy is eroding. Our elections are being challenged and some say that election fraud is causing us to have unfair results. The Internet I hope can be a place where people of all countries join for the rights of all people.

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