YouTube Bans, Universal Search, and The DoD

YouTube has gotten a lot of press lately, mainly from copyright lawsuits at home and YouTube bans around the world. While some of these YouTube bans have been temporary, other YouTube bans, like the ones in Iran and The United Arab Emirates, look like they will be there for a while.

Most YouTube bans in other countries seem to revolve around videos that mock or convey a negative image of that nation’s current leaders or other well-known national figures.

As communications technologies, combined with the recent surge of social sites, have made the world a smaller place, these YouTube bans would seem to have implications that stretch beyond the borders of the nations issuing bans. For instance, with the recent rollout of Google Universal Search, videos are now more visible. (Google-owned) YouTube, of course, has lots of them. When searchers in Iran, or any of the nations enforcing YouTube bans, searches for a term that would normally return a YouTube video, will that result be blocked, or will the access from the link be blocked?

Here is a quick list of the nations who currently have, or have had, YouTube Bans in place:

  • Iran
  • The United Arab Emirates
  • Turkey
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Thailand
  • India
  • Morocco
  • Iraq

It’s easy to see the difference in cultural attitudes in these nations. Living in the U.S., we have rights that allow us to express dissenting views of our public figures. In fact, our military often gets involved in combat around the world to make sure nobody comes too close to taking that from us, or to help other nations implement those rights as well.

That brings us to another sticky topic with YouTube bans. Every Internet marketer knows the value of social media sites like YouTube. In fact, to help with its own Marketing and PR efforts, the Department of Defense issued a press release on March 14 of this year touting YouTube as an avenue to broadcast from Iraq:

Coalition military officials in Iraq are hoping to reach out to younger, broader audiences by posting clips of service members in action on a popular video-sharing Web site.

“We want the American public, from an unfiltered vantage point, to be able to see what coalition forces and Iraqi security forces are doing here in Iraq,” [said Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman].

Something changed in two months, however, as the Department of Defense, citing bandwidth issues, added its own computers to the list of YouTube bans on May 14th. Oddly, today in Iraq, a U.S. soldier can access YouTube from local cafes, but not from DoD computers.

Just as YouTube and other social media sites can be used to promote marketing efforts, this seems to be a case where YouTube bans may start carrying their own negative marketing connotations. As many soldiers are in daily combat to preserve freedoms, they no longer have the freedom to visit certain social sites that allow them to reach the U.S. public they aim to protect.

To be fair, the Department of Defense still has enough bandwidth to run their own Army Knowledge Online and Defense Knowledge Online networks that let military members share videos and other correspondence with their families… just not the rest of the world.

One thing can be certain, though, just as social sites and their ability to help ethical marketers continues to grow, restriction of access to those sites through YouTube bans and other measures may say more about an organization or government than any video ever could.