Sputnik – Massoud Shadjareh, the founder of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Tuesday to discuss how Google’s decision to join the United States’ anti-Iran campaign and block the accounts of Iranian media outlets Press TV and HispanTV sets a “dangerous precedent” for free speech.
According to reports, Google blocked access to Press TV and HispanTV’s YouTube and Gmail accounts without any warning last week.
Although the Iranian state broadcaster’s YouTube channels can still be accessed, no new content can be published, despite the media outlets stating that they have not violated any of Google’s policies.
The Times of Israel speculated Monday that the move by Google may have been in reaction to a publication by HispanTV titled “Israel uses Palestinian prisoners for new medical trials.”
HispanTV has claimed that the censorship is the “price of being the voice of the oppressed,” while Press TV reported that Google “refused to offer an explanation for shutting down the accounts,” Forbes reported Tuesday.
“I think it’s really shocking,” Shadjareh told host John Kiriakou.
“We don’t expect anything [less] from [US President Donald] Trump and his administration than to behave in this way. And the international community has come to learn and accept this kind of outrageous behavior [against Iran],” he said, also noting that social media platforms and technology companies like Google are supposed to represent freedom of expression.
“We have been getting a lot of reports, which we [Islamic Human Rights Commission] are investigating right now, that companies like Google are putting algorithms in place so that if you search for certain issues, [the ranking] that comes up will be artificially manipulated, so those views are hidden and not presented… this is actually extremely dangerous, because it creates dictatorship of ideas and thoughts and it gives them [Google] absolute power to manipulate ideas and exclude certain views, and that is not really what social media is supposed to be,” Shadjareh added.
This is not the first time that the Iranian channels have been blocked by Google.
A general view of central downtown, including from top left, Bank of China, The Cheung Kong Center, HSBC’s headquarters and the Standard Chartered Bank as well as the Legislation Council, bottom, in Hong Kong
“[Our] original YouTube channel was established in December 2009 and closed in September 2013,” noted a recent report by Press TV. “A new channel was then opened, but it was shut [down] almost two months later. Another channel was opened, but it suffered the same fate after five months. The fourth channel, however, remained active with over 270,000 subscribers until it was closed today.”
Google’s actions coincide with the White House’s Monday announcement that it will not reissue sanctions waivers to countries that purchase Iranian oil after they expire in May. Washington has claimed that the decision “is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero,” destroying a vital source of revenue for Tehran. The move to end waivers comes after the US withdrew from the so-called Iran Nuclear Deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, last year, triggering the reimposition of US sanctions against Tehran.
According to Shadjareh, the censorship move by Google will set a dangerous precedent for all “alternative views.”
“Alternative views are going to be put under pressure, and this is what is so dangerous,” Shadjareh told Sputnik.
“We know institutions, like the current Trump administration, want to keep people ignorant on certain realities. There seems to be coordinated effort to control what we read and control what we think and control how we behave, and this affects every single one of us, and it’s very dangerous to give this level of control to companies who are adhering to the Trump administration. This [sets] a very dangerous precedent.”
“Iranians are recognizing that they have to stand on their own merit. Countries like China, Russia, and Turkey will continue doing deals with them, but [the sanction efforts by the US] will… have an impact on not just Iran’s economy but economies of the West as the well. We need to recognize that we are all going to suffer because of the restrictions [against Iran] because of the erosion of our civil liberties,” he added.