White House: Evidence Points to Anti-Muslim Video As Violence Trigger

YouTube: Video will Remain on Site, Though Not in Libya, Egypt, or Where Local Laws Prevent It

The White House said Tuesday that the FBI continues to investigate what role an anti-Muslim YouTube video played in the attacks in Libya that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, but that current evidence suggests the YouTube video was the trigger, rather than a premeditated attack taking advantage of protests over the video.

YouTube says the video will remain on the site, but is not accessible in India or Indonesia, where it is illegal, or in Libya or Egypt, "given the very sensitive situations" there.

In response to a question about about whether the U.S. had a heads up that violence was increasing there before the attacks, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he was not aware of any, but that that issue and others were the subject of an ongoing investigation.

He said that "based on what we knew at the time, knew initially, what we know now, the facts that we have, the video was a precipitating cause to the unrest in the region and specifically in Libya."

"This is a matter that’s under investigation in terms of what precipitated the attacks, what the motivations of the attackers were, what role the video played in that," Carney said, then repeated the administration's condemnation of the video. "What we have seen is broad unrest across the region and elsewhere in response to this video, which we have made clear we view as reprehensible and disgusting, and a video that is in no way connected to the United States government and does not reflect the values that we hold as a people." 

The White House last week confirmed it had asked YouTube to look into whether the video violated its terms of service. The site does not allow hate speech. "We encourage free speech and defend everyone's right to express unpopular points of view," it says in its community guidelines. But we don't permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity).

The White House declined to comment on whether YouTube had provided an answer, referring Multichannel News to the company, which said the video did not run afoul of those hate speech guidelines.

"We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions," said a YouTube spokesman. "This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video--which is widely available on the Web--is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, we've restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal such as India and Indonesia as well as in Libya and Egypt given the very sensitive situations in these two countries. This approach is entirely consistent with principles we first laid out in 2007."

YouTube maintains that the restrictions on access in Libya and Egypt were not as result of White House pressure and that it does not plan to re-review its decision that it falls within its community guidelines, according to a source speaking on background.

There has been some criticism of Administration officials' condemning the content of the video. In a blog posting on The Media Institute Web site this week, former FCC commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth argued that there were serious First Amendment issues on the "slippery slope the government places itself on when it comments on the content of publications, whether videos, books, magazines, newspapers, or Internet sites."

That blog posting came after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the video was "disgusting and reprehensible," and "appears to have a deeply cynical purpose to denigrate a great religion and provoke rage," though Furchtgott-Roth also pointed out that Clinton was careful to state that as her personal view. The transcript of Carneys' daily press conference, where the exchange occurred, did not indicate a similar caveat.