Benghazi and “The Innocence of Muslims”
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An attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya that was initially attributed to outrage over an American-made video criticizing Islam raised questions about the relationship between the American commitment to freedom of speech and its international diplomacy, as well as about the obligations of private American companies to freedom of speech abroad. In early September, 2012, an American citizen uploaded a privately funded short film called "The Innocence of Muslims" to youtube with Arabic subtitles. On September 11, shortly after its publication, protests erupted in response in Egypt and quickly spread to a number of other Muslim countries. During these protests a group of militant Libyans attacked the American embassy in Benghazi, killing five Americans including the ambassador. Two days later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed the video and publicly condemned it, but also insisted that it was no justification for the violence. President Obama subsequently asked google to take it off of Youtube, but Google determined it did not violate Google's terms of service and left it up. In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Obama echoed Clinton's condemnation of the video and tried to explain to the international community the reasons why he did not force Google to remove it from Youtube. An investigation concluded later that the attack was not a spontaneous act connected with the protests over the "Innocence of Muslims" video, but was a previously-orchestrated terror attack. The initial sequence of events nevertheless have continued to spur debates over how America should present its First Amendment commitments to a world that does not wholly share these commitments. Although Youtube did not remove the video, it voluntarily blocked access to it in Libya and Egypt where the protests were most intense. The governments of several other Muslim countries banned Youtube when it did not take the video down.