Google refuses to remove “Police Brutality” videos
When it comes to requesting the removal of videos from You Tube, most situations fall into two categories. First is Copyright Claim, and under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, once a takedown notice is recieved, the site has 24hours to remove the site, easy as pie. The second situation falls into tort. Say a video takes clips of a celebrity and attempts to make them look like a sex maniac, or say a video accuses the same celebrity of a sex crime. These are tort situations, invasion of privacy: false light, and defamation, respectively. It is often times much harder to “convince” a site to remove these types of videos, and they will often do so, only in response to a court order.
Now we have a situation where Google (YouTube is a subsidiary) has reported a 70% increase in the number of removal requests from Law Enforcement, of videos allegedly showing police brutality. From Digital Journal:
According to Google, from January to June of this year the “number of content removal requests we received increased by 70 percent,” in comparison to the previous July to December 2010 report.
In addition to the removal requests, the report also showed a 29 percent increase in user data requests. Even though the company reported that in fact it did comply with 63 percent of the government requests overall, they noted that due to the lack of a court order to remove certain content they may decline, stating “we received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove.”
Adding, “Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.” (Note that Truth is a defense in defamation claims)
If the videos merely show what happened, then there is no claim for defamation. Defamation occurs when someone states a false or misleading statement against an individual. A video showing police brutality would merely show what happens, nothing false or misleading so there is no chance to prevail in a defamation claim.
There is a possibility for a “false light claim”, which falls under the invasion of privacy tort. Simply put, a false light claim is one where the information transmitted, although possibly truthful, may put an individual a false light than they would have been otherwise. An example would be a video of a law enforcement officer using excessive force to take down a suspect with the caption “Police Brutality”. The video did not include the sequence prior to the detainment, where the suspect struck the police officer in the face and attempted to take his side arm. The police used proper measures during the situation, but the video leads a reasonable person to believe that the suspect was a victim of police brutality. This is the tort of false light.