Emerging Ideas Short Takes: September/October 2007


| Utne Reader September / October 2007



Can't Stop the Hate?

It's a familiar excuse among online content providers, who have yet to see serious regulation or agree on standards of decency for the digital commons: 'There's just so much content, we can't possibly review it all!' Small wonder, then, that the particularly loathsome propaganda spewed by neo-Nazis and white supremacists would find a comfortable existence on seemingly anarchic video-sharing websites like YouTube. As of January, according to Intelligence Report (Spring 2007), some 12,000 highlight reels from hate-rock concerts, pseudodocumentaries on Holocaust denial, and videos on the history of the Ku Klux Klan were readily available, and some had been watched up to 132,000 times. Even though YouTube's guidelines already ban hate speech, and civil rights organizations have asked the Google-owned website to remove racist content as a matter of course, they claim that reviewing the sheer volume of videos posted each day (some 65,000) is not feasible, so material is removed only if a user complains.

According to Extra! (March/April 2007), however, Google's AdSense service, which places virtual advertisements on thousands of websites and blogs, already uses 'sensitivity filters' to ensure that promotions don't appear next to controversial material. On some news sites, for instance, Google-sponsored ads quickly disappear when stories about rape, pornography, or even bombings in Iraq are posted. So while the technology to police offensive material is out there, at present only paying clients deserve the courtesy.


Destination Antigua: E-bootleggers' Paradise

Las Vegas may have met its match in the tiny island of Antigua, at least when it comes to raising the stakes on government bureaucracy. In March, the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of Antigua, which argued that the United States' Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act violates global trade agreements because it exempts domestic gambling interests, such as state lotteries and horse racing, and targets offshore Internet gambling operations--many of them Antigua-based. Reason (July 2007) reports that the United States is expected to simply ignore the WTO's ruling, spurring the Caribbean country to plan a possible retaliation. By ignoring U.S. copyright law, Antigua could, if it secures WTO permission, transform itself into a haven for film, music, and software pirates, using servers based on its shores to spread U.S. intellectual property around the globe. This would pit America's powerful entertainment industry against those who pushed the gambling law through Congress.

Other groups are using more traditional (read: litigious) means to reach the same ends. In June, the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association filed a lawsuit against the federal government seeking to stop the United States from enforcing the law, which prevents U.S. credit card companies and banks from processing payments to online gambling businesses, calling it a violation of both constitutional rights and international treaties.