Social media platforms have always struggled to apply their community guidelines to the mountain of user-generated content uploaded to their sites every day, and that challenge has only grown more formidable during the Mideast uprisings. Flickr, for example, was accused of censorship when it removed profile pictures of Egyptian security forces seized by a blogger from state security headquarters, citing its copyright infringement policy. A video allegedly showing the mutilated and castrated body of a 13-year-old boy tortured by Syrian security forces has presented YouTube with a similar dilemma.
The extremely graphic footage of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb's corpse became a rallying point for the Syrian protest movement after it was posted to YouTube and picked up by Al Jazeera, soon splintering into various versions. But, as of yesterday, YouTube had removed the original clip because it violated the site's policy on "shocking and disgusting content." Yet, soon after The Nation reached out to YouTube for comment, the footage was restored. "With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call," a spokesperson told The Nation's Ari Melber, without commenting on the Hamza video specifically. "When it's brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it." In the case of the Hamza video, Melber adds, YouTube's mistake was "removing a video that was aimed at documenting and exposing, rather than promoting, violence allegedly used against protesters."