Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Everything gets published on the Internets _ but how?


The Oracle of Amsterdam predicts Geert Wilders' anti-Quran film "Fitna" is coming in the next two days. Absolutely no insider information here, just common sense: he's promised to get it out this month, and why would he wait for the court case Friday that might end up banning him from releasing it at all?

Leaving aside questions of good/bad right/wrong, I just want to think out loud about: the freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to broadcast.

How is he technically going to publish it? No TV stations will broadcast it, no press screening is possible, and his hosting provider, Network Solutions, has pulled the plug on him.

Why? No reason to scream 'censorship' or 'U.S. government involvement.' This is a corporation we're talking about, and they a) hate negative publicity and b) can be held liable if the film contains something illegal (for instance, an incitement to violence). I personally doubt it will contain anything illegal, but you can understand why a big company is shy about the risk, and Wilders' refusal to show it to them in advance gives them an easy reason to refuse to host it.

Even GeenStijl ("No Style"), the Dutch blog, said it couldn't put up the video without seeing it first, for similar reasons.

Wilders could upload it to YouTube, but chances are they're also ready to yank it down immediately. So, how?

We can all (probably) agree that once the film leaks out, it will go everywhere via file sharing etc., but in the meanwhile, he's got a minor logistical problem on his hands.

I'll give my theory after the "More," but I'm open to and curious about other suggestions.

My opinion is, he will mostly likely be handing out old-fashioned DVDs to the press, because otherwise it may be difficult to authenticate which movie is his. There are already a lot of fakes on YouTube.

However, the press won't republish it in its entirety, so he will still need a way for "the public" to be able to access it. So I think he will likely find an alternate hosting company that is willing to offer bandwidth without reviewing the film first. It's risky, but it might be good publicity for some smaller hosting companies.

Could be in Holland (XS4ALL?), could be abroad, on Vanatu or in Scandinavia or something.

I don't think he'll put it up on either the or domains because it's not easy to get Network Solutions or Verio to transfer the domain names quickly.

So I think it's more likely he would buy an as-yet unknown domain name, post the movie, and then announce where it is via a press release.

In that scenario it may well be hard to see the film at the beginning because the site crashes due to traffic or a denial of service attack.

Secondarily, he may have multiple people ready to upload it to YouTube, Revver and the like in a short period of time, and seed a few Bittorrents for good measure, just to get things going.

Time will tell.


Anonymous said...

...and then, on April first, 2008 Wilders revealed his movie, Fitna. At the pressconference, where the multitude of international reporters are trying to make sense of the PRO-muslim message contained within Fitna, all fell silent when Wilders pulled of his rubbermask, only to reveal a beard, turban and arab face, letting the Aprils fools joke sink in. Who said muslims dont have a sense of humor?...........Wishful thinking i know, but hey, one can always dream....

Derek said...

It's not going to be difficult for him to get the film up on YouTube and other well-known internet video sites. I'm not at all convinced that YouTube will automatically take it down - Geert Wilders is a big deal in the Netherlands, but pretty much nobody in the U.S. has ever heard of him. I'm better informed than the average American vis-a-vis current events (i.e., *substantive* current events that don't involve Britney Spears), but if I didn't read your blog I would have no idea who Geert Wilders is.

Derek said...

I should specify that I'm not saying YouTube should or shouldn't take Fitna down. What I am saying is that I don't know whether the controversy is a) going to register all that much with an American company, or b) if it does, whether it will view that controversy as a problem for them or as a web traffic bonanza.

Plus, there is the free speech issue. Personally, I don't agree with what I understand to be the film's message. Based on what little I know of it and of Wilders, I suspect that it would strike me as bigoted bullshit. Be that as it may, it is not *against the law* to be a bullshitting bigot, and in the long view I think that's as it should be.

Toby Sterling said...

@Derek Thanks for some interesting remarks, and 'interesting' in this case is not code for 'retarded.'

To my knowledge, several well-known file sharing sites declined to host the film (I'm not at liberty to say which).

Neither the U.S. nor the Netherlands will usually allow what we in the biz call 'prior restraint' of publication by the government.

But both certainly allow for criminal punishment of some kinds of speech afterward, which can act as a very effective deterrent to a company.

Free speech has limits, even on the Web (pedophilia, to cite an obvious example).

It's true that Wilders is not a big deal in the U.S., but corporations may also be better informed about potential business risks than the general public because _ $$.

Wilders didn't make his life easier by hyping the film for months before publication, giving people like lawyers for Network Solutions time to swing into action.

But *in the event*, once the film was published, it was quickly spread from a little-known host (whose site was on its knees for several hours afterward) to the rest of the net.

Because *in the event* the film broadly conformed to Western decency laws.

Wilders is facing a civil suit _ no comment on its viability _ in the Netherlands for hate speech.

He's also under investigation by prosecutors, with no indication as to whether they will or won't bring charges.

He will also face several civil suits for copyright violation which I think it's not out of line for me to say have a shot at succeeding.


ps is Wilders registering over there at all now?