The Central Council of Jews in Germany on Thursday requested that a Hamburg court issue a cease-and-desist order against Google for disseminating what it claims are anti-Semitic videos that incite "racial hatred and discrimination" on its YouTube Web site.
"The radical right-wing scene is using YouTube, massively, as a platform," said Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews, the umbrella organization of Germany's Jewish communities. "We are accusing Google, with its YouTube video platform subsidiary of being an accomplice to inciting racial hatred and discrimination."
The videos, Kramer claims, include one showing a picture of Paul Spiegel, the deceased former head of the Central Council of Jews, being burned with a swastika in the background. For months, he claims, the video has been available for download on the site.
It's not the first time such allegations have been made against YouTube. In 2006, films with right-wing extremist messages and other dubious content were found. And in November 2007, despite new filtering software installed by YouTube, the Nazi propaganda film "Jud Süss" ("The Jew Suss") was found on the site. It is illegal to make Nazi propaganda films like "Jud Süss" or Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will" available in Germany without additional commentary about the context in which they were made.
Kramer is accusing Google of doing too little to ensure that Nazi propaganda doesn't make it live on to the YouTube site. But the company denies the allegation. At an event connected to the "Loud against Nazis" campaign in Hamburg, Google Germany spokesman Kay Oberbeck said the company is "very conscientious about its responsibility."
YouTube's main line of defense against extremists videos is self-policing by its online community. If users spot an inappropriate video that has been uploaded by one of the service's millions of users, they can report it with the click of a mouse. "These complaints are then handled by (YouTube) employees who have been trained to deal with them," said Oberbeck. Once a video has been banned, YouTube has technology that can identify it and prevent it from being uploaded again in the future.
But the Central Council of Jews says that's not enough. Kramer would like to see YouTube hire new workers to scan the site's massive archive to identify and remove extremist content.