Listening Post
Google and the video that enraged Muslims
How did a film trailer that lived in well-deserved obscurity on Youtube turn into something altogether different?
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2012 14:34

On Listening Post this week: The film trailer heard around the Muslim world, and how it got there. Plus, the rise of investigative reporting in China.
On television screens, the story looked like round two of the Arab Spring - only the targets of the demonstrations were not presidential palaces, but the various embassies of an American government that had absolutely nothing to do with the offending film. The story was also reminiscent of the unrest provoked in 2006 by the publication of those Danish cartoons. But this time around, Google had a pivotal role to play. Google, which owns Youtube, resisted pleas to take the film down, yet it did block access to it in parts of the Muslim world and left it up to governments to do the rest. Then there is the role of the Egyptian TV channel that took a video that lived in well-deserved obscurity on Youtube and turned it into something else entirely.

In this week's News Bytes: Jordan has introduced a new law which means news sites can be blocked by the government and critics fear the law will be used to censor opposition to the state; in Lebanon, journalist Rami Aysha has been detained for the last two weeks and faces being held for up to six months without even being charged - international news organisations have voiced concern over his situation; in the US, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, blindsided by the secret video recording of him talking with campaign donors, has done what most Republicans do when under fire: he has taken shelter on Fox News; and in the UK, how the tabloids handle one hot issue - naked photos of British royals - in two very different ways.

Listening Post this week looks at the rise of Chinese investigative reporting. The Paris-based press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, ranks China as the sixth most repressive media environment in the world. Journalists and the outlets they work for are routinely written off as mere government mouthpieces. However, media production in the country has exploded over the past three decades, and with that has come new competition for readers, viewers and revenues. News outlets have found that, like anywhere else, exposing wrongdoing and unearthing the odd scandal can be good for business. 

Finally, in the US, the race for the White House is really heating up. Over the past few weeks the Republican and Democratic conventions offered Barack Obama, the US president, and Republican candidate Mitt Romney the opportunity to score political points against one another, all on prime time television. The Gregory brothers from Brooklyn, New York, spotted some spooky similarities in the points the two candidates were making in their big speeches. Taking the very best of the platitudinous rhetoric, adjusting it with auto-tune, they mashed up the speeches and then threw them online via the New York Times website. They call their little production Patriot Game. We are calling it our web video of the week. 

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