Existing Services

From Identifying Difficult Problems in Cyberlaw
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Human rights videos are currently disseminated through a variety of traditional and new media outlets. While these services have allowed many important human rights videos to reach an unprecedented audience, they are currently inadequate in two ways. First, none of the existing solutions have the proper alignment of incentives to support human rights media. Second, none of the services provide both secure anonymous uploading mechanisms and tools to ensure the anonymity of the videos’ subjects.

In order to explain why none of the current solutions have adequately solved the problems facing human rights media, it is helpful to plot these solutions using two important variables. First, the horizontal axis measures how susceptible these organizations are to government and financial pressures. Organizations that are more susceptible to pressure can be found on the right-hand side of the chart, while organizations that are resistant to these pressures reside on the left-hand side. Second, the vertical axis looks at the extent to which an organization filters the content it publishes. At the top, non-hierarchical organizations generally take a hands-off approach to the content available on their websites. Hierarchical organizations, on the other hand, exercise great control in the selection and promotion of human rights media. The basic chart is presented below.


So what organizations currently fill this space? The second quadrant, in the upper right of the chart, includes for-profit, multinational organizations that host user-generated content. YouTube and Facebook are two popular organizations that fall directly into this quadrant.[1] Anyone with access can upload content on YouTube and publish it to the world, as long as it does not contain pornography or graphic violence.[2] Although YouTube is well-suited to host and disseminate large amounts of human rights media, it is still subject to outside pressures. Governments can force YouTube to limit the availability of certain content by threatening to block the site in their country. In 2008, for example, YouTube removed a controversial video critical of Islam in order to end Pakistan’s ban of the site.[3] Actions such as these demonstrate that sites like YouTube have a serious misalignment of interests and are not perfectly suitable to serve as publishers of human rights media.


  1. Other organizations might include Flickr, Vimeo, Veoh, and Metacafe.
  2. See YouTube Community Guidelines.
  3. See Greg Sandoval, Pakiston Welcomes Back YouTube, CNet (Feb. 26, 2008).