YouTube will not remove a film clip mocking the Islamic Prophet Mohammad that has been blamed for anti-US protests in Egypt and Libya, but it has blocked access to it in those countries, The Telegraph reported.
The clip, based on a longer film, depicts the prophet as a fraud and philanderer and has been blamed for sparking violence at US embassies in Cairo and Benghazi. US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other American diplomats were killed by gunmen in an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday.
Google's response to the crisis highlighted the struggle faced by the company, and others like it, to balance free speech with legal and ethical concerns in an age when social media can impact world events.
Analysts say they have seen a handful of internet companies generally take a more hands-off approach to controversial political speech, perhaps motivated by idealistic and business considerations.
In a brief statement on Wednesday, Google officials rejected the notion of removing the video on grounds it did not violate YouTube's policies, but restricted viewers in Egypt and Libya from loading it due to the special circumstances in the country.
"This video - which is widely available on the Web - is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube," Google said in a statement. "However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt, we have temporarily restricted access in both countries."