YouTube working with Thailand over video impasse

InfoWorld

Dan Nystedt

YouTube Inc. is working with government officials in Thailand to
reinstate access to the popular video-sharing Web site after officials
blocked it due to a video that ridiculed its popular king.

The incident has sparked widespread indignation in Thailand, where
the crime of lèse-majesté, or offending the monarchy, is taken
seriously. Last week, a 57-year old Swiss national in Thailand was
given a 10-year jail sentence for spray painting on posters of the
king.

The majority of user comments under the offending YouTube video
implored the site to take it down. It was removed by the user last
Thursday, but new videos, equally offensive, have been added to the
site. It remains blocked in Thailand.

In a bid to resolve the impasse, YouTube officials have been working
with the Thai government to show them how to block specific videos
only, instead of the entire Web site.

“While we will not take down videos that do not violate our
policies, and will not assist in implementing censorship, we have
offered to educate the Thai Ministry about YouTube and how it works.
It’s up to the Thailand government to decide whether to block specific
videos, but we would rather that than have them block the entire site,”
said Julie Supan, head of YouTube communications, in an e-mailed
statement.

She said YouTube has spoken directly with Thailand’s Minister of
Information and Communication Technology, Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom. The
minister told YouTube that his government is inflexible on the issue of
the offending videos, and asked how to block individual material
instead of the whole site.

YouTube did not know when access to its site might be restored in Thailand.

Thailand has faced criticism over the issue from anti-censorship
groups. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) said the move to
block YouTube access appeared to be part of a more widespread effort to
cut Thais off from the Internet following a military coup last
September, when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his
government were replaced by military appointees.

Political Web sites, including SaturdayVoice (
http://www.saturdayvoice.com ) and Hi-Thaksin (
http://www.hi-thaksin.net ), have also been blocked, the group says.

For YouTube, the issue highlights the wide range of potential
problems Internet companies can face around the world, as different
countries and cultures have different views on taste and censorship.
Brazil blocked access to YouTube briefly over a video that purported to
show a famous model cavorting on a beach. And Turkey reportedly blocked
access to the site because of a video considered insulting to one of
the country’s founders.

In contrast to Thailand, one videoone
video of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II pokes light-hearted fun at the
monarch, and the user comments are mostly anti-monarch. The video runs
to the tune of the song “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and shows her in
various ceremonies, on horseback and elsewhere. User comments range
from “I love her” to the opposite extreme. The video has not been
blocked in Britain.

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