Egyptian anti-torture blogger says YouTube shut his account.

Wael Abbas is an award-winning blogger in Egypt whose work documenting human rights violations through online video has been blogged here on BB before.

Wael claims that his YouTube account, with which he has posted more than a hundred videos of alleged police abuse, has been terminated over complains the clips contain "inappropriate material."

Abbas said YouTube sent him an e-mail saying they had suspended his account. "They didn't ask me to remove it. They said 'Your account isn't working,' " he said. When asked about Abbas, a YouTube spokesperson said, "We take these matters very seriously, but we don't comment on individual videos."

YouTube regulations state that "graphic or gratuitous violence" is not allowed and violations of the Terms of Use could result in the ending of an account and deleting all of the videos in it.

Link to CNN account.

Snip from related item at Foreign Policy blog:

There are plenty of other video-sharing sites and third-party tools out there for posting viral videos, but Abbas says he's lost his entire archive, the fruit of years of painstaking work. Also this month, Yahoo! accused Abbas of spamming and shut down two e-mail accounts of his.

Link. Here's the post on Wael's blog about the suspension of his Yahoo email account: Link. (Thanks, Rafe)

Previously: Supporters Work to Free Egyptian Blogger


  1. He must not have thought they were very important if he didn’t make any backups.

    Seriously, though, Youtube has a right to remove whatever, whenever, for any reason. They pay the bills.

    Anyone know if these even had disclaimers, or required that you agree to adult content? If torture videos were unmarked and didn’t have warnings and I came across them while poking around on Youtube (“oh, here’s more videos related to Egypt… GAH!”) I’d complain about them.

  2. that tends to happen. if you have an issue with moderation. its best to just shoot an email instead of trying to hash it out in the comments section.

    i know. i’ve got naughty fingers. She may have reasons that aren’t readily apparent at the moment.

  3. YouTube doesn’t allow gratuitous violence? I posted a video nearly 9 month ago titled “Gratuitous Violence” and they haven’t pulled it:

  4. Youtube may well be within their rights, but being within their rights is not sufficient make them right.

    To begin with, they are owned by Google, who has famously claimed that they have not being evil as a goal. Since that is their stated goal, it is fair for us to discuss whether or not they are meeting it. Is hampering someone who is exposing police brutality evil? I am not certain, but it is pretty clearly not doing good.

    I think that the real underlying problem here is the fallacy that suppressing media or discussion of some bad act will help it go away. The initial intention of policies which prevent videos with violence in them is to prevent the glamorization of violence. But once the idea is accepted that it is not just violence itself, but depictions of violence which are the problem, this leads to situations where the removal of depictions of violence can actually cause more violence to occur.

    News organizations successfully apply logic to the problem and use their own judgment in an appropriate way. For instance, no one suggested that showing the beating of Rodney King would lead to more police brutality or that showing pictures from Abu Graib would lead to more torture. However, every website which accepts user-created video (even ones which accept adult content) explicitly bans videos depicting torture and many of them also ban violence. YouTube’s community policy, for instance, says “If your video shows someone getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don’t post it.” This would, for instance, ban the several videos of cops tasering people which have sparked national discussion about the appropriate use of electronic weapons.

    Web sites want to be able to draw a bright line about what is and is not acceptable because they are afraid that if they allow users to display videos which glamorize or sexualize torture or brutality that they could be blamed for encouraging torture or violence. But in their attempts to do so it is inevitable that they will sweep in videos whose attempt is to condemn torture or violence, and as such they wind up potentially contributing to the problem.

    If all these policies were fully enforced then any torturer could know that no video taken of them would be likely to be able to be distributed. If all torturers and brutalizers knew that any video made of their actions would never be allowed to see the light of public scrutiny, it would certainly only serve to encourage them. Or, more accurately, it would fail to discourage them the way the threat of public scrutiny often can.


  5. This kind of problem is inevitable with the current structure of “Web 2.0”. While content and the ability to collaborate is free-as-in-beer, it’s not free-as-in-freedom. The freedom we seem to see running loose in places like YouTube may increasingly prove to be illusory.

    The web sites and apps which people use to communicate and network in a Web 2.0 way are still firmly out of the hands of the people participating in the network. The electronic means of production are still centralized in the hands of a small handful of commercial interests.

    The difference is that it doesn’t have to be this way anymore – almost anyone has the capability of setting up a half-decent YouTube clone. The reason these commercial interests have so much power is because they do the job well enough for almost everyone, so almost nobody sees a need to move away from them. After all, none of my videos have ever been censored from YouTube, why should I care?

    Hopefully as people begin to come down from the Web 2.0 high, they’ll realize that participatory centralized corporate media enterprises on the web don’t grant any more true freedom than their non-participatory counterparts in television and print. The internet’s free nature only frees us if we use it to eliminate our dependency on centralized corporate media.

    Use your freedom of choice!

  6. So what you’re saying is…Youtube is the napster for web 2.0?

    I’m sure I could find some clips from Hostel or Syriana on youtube. Its just like the real thing right?

    Seriously though, you guys sold out to google for a billion dollars. You’re telling me you can’t hire 2 people to do a little community PR work? Like maybe contacting the person in question.
    Maybe you would’ve found out the videos weren’t uploaded by some sick freak (ala “shock sites”) and there was a valid reason. Maybe he would’ve put up a disclaimer or classified his video so the age alert pops up.

    1 billion dollars. Hire some PR interns you cheap bastards.

    You know, I frequent a lot. I’m libertarian and its a site that hosts libertarian videos. I like the daily show so I go to that site too.
    Why don’t some of the human rights organizations create a youtube clone exclusively for journalist bloggers like Wael Abbas? They could always use Youtube for promotional reasons, which is all its seems to be good at nowadays.

  7. There may have been good reasons for him to not keep his own backups. Keeping a local archive could put himself in danger, for example.

    As for the videos being gone, what about sites like deltube? Isn’t it possible to recover “deleted” YouTube videos?

  8. If local backups were too dangerous, he could at least have uploaded them somewhere else. YouTube is not the only video plattform available.

    Disclaimer: I don’t want to speak bad of this blogger who seems to have done a great job. It is just yet another example of how often people forget to back up important data.

  9. The reason, presumably, for using YouTube to upload the videos is accessibility. Granted, you could st up a video site specifically for this, but then you would find yourself preaching to the converted one would imagine.
    If someone who doesn’t know about such things stumbles upon the video whilst searching on YouTube for something else, and thinks ‘I didn’t know about this, it’s terrible! What can I do to help limit it/inform others?’ then his mission is successful.
    If this unfortunately hurts the feelings of some people because they don’t like to know about nasty things, well, tough. If they don’t like to know about nasty things, they should probably disconnect their modem.

  10. Freedom of Speech means protecting speech you don’t like. this includes “graphic violence”, sex, “curse words”, tubgirl, nazi rhetoric, snuff films, and Barney the Dinosaur.

    Why does Google (YouTube) not simply offer the end-user option to filter content with tags rather than remove it completely???

  11. That’s total B.S. YouTube does say “Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don’t post it.” but at the same time there are thousands of nasty vids on YouTube and they have been there, in some cases, for years. Have a look at the Muslim flogging videos and the Iraqis thrown off a building videos for starters.

    I was “permanently suspended” by YouTube for being the first person to post the shocking video of the Kurdish girl being stoned to death. YouTube took it down and banned me but then dozens of other videos of the same event went up and stayed up. Then CNN showed parts of the video. I appealed to the Community Relations guy – Damian Whatisface and they reviewed it and re-instated me. But I’m loath to even test them out again with a borderline vid.

    It’s part of the utter hypocrisy of Google (the new owners of YouTube). We’ve seen that in China and other parts of the world and we’ve seen the way they say Porn is a No-No – yet list it on their search engine and the biggest furphy of all when they say not to use “black-hat search engine optimization” techniques and again they list those businesses and take their advertising for Adwords/Adsense. Go figure – as you Americans say.

  12. Although I agree that shutting him down was wrong, how did he lose his work. If I were working on something of the magnitude of which he was, I would back up every video.

  13. #16, go flag the ones you find to be graphically violent, and wait a couple of days and see if they’re not removed.

    I’m sure they don’t have people who sit around all day monitoring every clip that comes in to see if it’s non-violent. So for the most part, they wait for complaints.

  14. #18, and who do you think made they complaint? I think everyone here is kinda seeing trees instead of a forest. He was posting videos of police torture by one of the most repressive state security apparatus and exposing their brutality to the world using the most popular site to gain maximum exposure, and all you have to say is too bad, he should have read the EULA and made back-ups? Thank you #16for pointing out the hypocrisy; it’s completely against the “don’t be evil” motto. Don’t be evil, just cooperate with it at all cost.

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