11 March 2007

1487) Virtual Globalization & Racism: Example of YouTube

It is a widely known fact that the racism and chauvinism in the anonymous environment of the virtual world is not new, but this phenomenon is developing in a unique way due to the platform and new dimension of communication created by YouTube.com and similar video Web sites.

YouTube was established in February 2005 and purchased in October 2006 by Google, the founder and owner of the Internet’s most widely used search engine, for $1.65 billion. The infrastructure created by YouTube is generally considered to be a revolutionary development in the history of media, communication and art since it enables anyone with a camera phone and Internet access to post his or her own TV program or short film. . .

It is not possible to say that this view is largely true but, on the other hand, it has also been observed that the contents of the videos posted and watched by YouTube users are not or cannot be sufficiently controlled in terms of racism, violence and sex in particular. Moreover, broadcasting the videos on YouTube without getting permission from the sources and most of the persons on the videos has been criticized for violating copyright law and personal rights.

The Zaman online news article “Greek soldiers’ anthem of grudge for Ottomans,” published on March 5, and the Hürriyet daily Internet edition news article “Insolence against Atatürk and the Turks” handled a YouTube broadcast of the short videos of some Greek soldiers’ insults against the Turks and Albanians as well as against Atatürk, founder of Turkey, during a march.

These videos are only a few among hundreds and thousands of videos posted and broadcasted on YouTube every day and include insults, blasphemies, hatred, grudges and violence. Several videos, which generally have an individual source, beyond the boundaries of racism and chauvinism and include insults and extremely degrading depictions and images that can trigger hatred, grudges and enmity between men, societies, nations and religions, can be watched in this virtual platform. These kinds of videos include hundreds of videos including extreme Turcophobia as well as several extremely racist videos of enmity against Kurds, Armenians or Greeks. Moreover, issues such as the murder of journalist Hrant Dink, a recent shock for Turkey, and the so-called Armenian genocide in the Ottoman state are being discussed and propagandized on this site in a low and radical discourse.

As we consider the magnitude of the virtual world of people that YouTube and other similar sites reach all over the world, these examples are very important for us but they are only the tip of the iceberg. This platform actually has a more comprehensive and global dimension that interests the whole world and should therefore be handled on a global basis. The real dimension of the danger can better be understood when we consider our children and youth, the inheritors of our world, country and future, frequently follow and share the contents of these videos by means of computers and mobile phones in an uncontrolled way.

Who is mainly responsible for this problem? Those who make these videos are certainly guilty and responsible but some of those who make, post, watch and spread these videos are the children and youth -- even it is for a practical joke -- and therefore parents, society and political decision-making offices have a big responsibility in this. They must take responsibilities without exception. However, the main responsibility certainly belongs to YouTube and similar commercial sites and their administrators, who allow the posting and spreading of this kind of racist and chauvinist audio-visual and written content on the web without making any serious evaluation and elimination. In Turkey as well as in several other countries, degrading men, societies and nations, dishonoring them, insulting and ridiculing their faiths and symbols, spreading or broadcasting these is considered to be both a crime and a heavy violation of human rights we perceive as global.It is suggested it is difficult to control the Internet but it is unacceptable for a company that is officially registered and has a known address and a state that has national offices of legislation, judiciary and administration to put forth such pretexts. If such companies' control mechanisms are insufficient, then they must stop operating. If national judiciary mechanisms are sufficient to stop this, then judiciary organs must take new legal measures. If this remains still insufficient, then international efforts are needed in this case; international law must step in. As I previously said, this is not a problem that interests only us; this is a global problem involving all.

In a period when the world is this radicalized and polarized, allowing the development of such an influential and widespread means of media in an irresponsible and uncontrolled way without recognizing any press ethics is nothing but adding fuel to the fire. This is an irreparable mistake with heavy costs. The issue I handled here shows once more that globalization and its means have the potential of making human beings approach each other as well as trigger enmity among people and societies. M.A. (Amsterdam University)

11.03.2007
Cevat Kara
Zaman

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