Following the arrest of Jose Pimentel earlier this month for plotting a bomb attack in New York City, Sen. Joe Lieberman is now calling upon Google to ban all terrorist material. Citing Google's prior crack-down on terrorist content on YouTube, Lieberman has charged Google to apply that standard to their other services. Pimental's pro-terrorist website, www.trueislam1.com, was hosted by Google's blog service (the site has since been removed).
In a letter sent to Google, Lieberman goes so far to accuse the company of dropping the ball in the war on terrorism by permitting sites like the one belonging to Pimentel. The full text of the letter follows:
On Saturday, the New York Police Department arrested Jose Pimentel for constructing a pipe bomb to be used against U.S. military service members. Pimentel allegedly used the Internet to access instructions to make bombs and share his support for violent Islamist extremism.
Pimentel's Internet activity - both his spreading of bomb-making instruction links and his hate-filled writings - were hosted by Google. On his site www.trueislam1.com, Pimentel stated, "People have to understand that American and its allies are all legitimate targets in warfare. This includes facilities such as army bases, police stations, political facilities, embassies, CIA and FBI buildings, private and public airports, and all kinds of buildings where money is being made to help fund a war." As demonstrated by this recent case, Google's webhosting site, Blogger is being used by violent Islamist extremists to broadcast terrorist content. Pimental's site is just one of the many examples of homegrown terrorists using Google-hosted sites to propagate their violent ideology.
In September 2008, in response to a previous request that YouTube not allow terrorist content on its servers, Google changed its YouTube Community Guidelines to expressly ban terrorist content. In November 2010, Google introduced a "flag" button for terrorist content on YouTube. I continue to appreciate and commend these important first steps but I am disappointed that Google has not developed a consistent standard throughout its many platforms. Unlike YouTube's Community Standards, Blogger's Content Policy does not expressly ban terrorist content nor does it provide a "flag" feature for such content.
Google sets its own standards for materials allowable on its servers. Through your updated YouTube standards, Google has affirmatively stated that terrorist content will not be permitted on some of your sites. I strongly believe that Google should expand that standard to include your other platforms. The private sector plays an important role in protecting our homeland from the preeminent threat of violent Islamist extremism, and Google's inconsistent standards are adversely affecting our ability to counter violent Islamist extremism online.
While the ongoing debate about free speech and censorship continues (and will likely always continue), Google has made efforts for transparency by providing statistics and examples of some removal requests submitted by governments. Still, they did comply either completely or partially with over 60% of government requests in the United States to remove content, although few of those are indexed as "Hate Speech," "National Security," or "Violence."
Do you think Google should comply with Lieberman's request and do more to prohibit speech deemed to be insightful of terrorism? Do you think Google's already doing enough with their current policy? Tell us what you think.