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‘Innocence of Muslims’ to be taken down

A United States federal court ordered YouTube to take down a controversial anti-Muslim film following a new court ruling about one of the actresses in the film.

Some of the content that is posted to the Internet, while legal, is certainly controversial. Websites that support organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and other radical and bigoted groups can be found throughout cyberspace, despite their hateful subject matter. Like it or not, the fact that these sites exist is one of the major components of the First Amendment.

When it comes to racism and freedom of speech, the line is blurry. For instance, hate speech is largely illegal, while at the same time the American Civil Liberties Union has supported the Ku Klux Klan's efforts to adopt part of the George state highway. While in certain instances, this form of speech is deplorable, in other instances, many see it as a vital component of what makes the U.S. a democracy as it speaks to the notion that all citizens have a voice.

It is a tough line to navigate, and becomes even more difficult when it is applied to the Internet. As cyberspace continues to become a more prominent force in our daily lives, it becomes increasingly difficult to regulate online freedom. This issue has come to the forefront as a result of a recent court ruling in regard to the "Innocence of Muslims" video that led to outrage throughout much of the world in 2012.

YouTube ordered to remove video
The "Innocence of Muslims" was the subject of much controversy in 2012 when it first came online. The movie was a poorly made film about the Muslim prophet Mohamed, but portrayed his life in such a racist manner that the Ayatollah issued a fatwa against film.

Numerous parties urged YouTube to take down the film, but the company refused citing that it would be a violation of free speech if it did. However, numerous sources reported that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ordered the film to be removed. This is not because of the content of the content of the film directly, but because of the effects that it had on the actors of the film.

Almost everyone involved with the film did not know that they would be acting in an anti-Muslim movie, instead they believed they would be working on an adventure film. One actress who was misled was Cindy Lee Garcia saw her lines dubbed over to make anti-Muslim statements, according to the Los Angeles Times. As a result, she brought a case to court against YouTube to remove the film, to which the federal court agreed. Because her lines were dubbed over and misled, the court ruled that the video needed to be removed on the grounds that it violated copyright laws.

Hurting free speech?
The ruling has a number of online freedom groups frustrated on the ground that it is a violation of the First Amendment. Google, the owner of YouTube argued this in court, and said that it will continue to fight the ruling. Another group that has come out against it is the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The organization argued that the copyright intention of Garcia's lines was unclear. In this kind of an injunction, the standards for intent are quite high, which means that the grounds for the ruling are not necessarily solid. On top of this, Garcia's lines were only about five seconds of air time, and she admitted to only performing the lines she was told.

"There may be a context where an actor could assert some species of authorship, but this doesn't seem to be one of them. Movie makers of all kinds should be worried indeed," the EFF wrote in its blog.

This ruling seems to only further blur the line between hate speech and freedom of speech, and adds to the complex history of the two in democracy.

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