Even after the killing of an American ambassador in Libya, YouTube refused to take down the video that enraged Muslims around the world. Instead it blocked access to the 14-minute clip in the two countries where American embassies were attacked.
Due to an executive decision by YouTube, Internet users in Egypt and Libya will be unable to access the video that sparked public outrage in those countries over claims that it insulted the prophet Muhammad, AP reports.
Enraged Muslims stormed the US Embassy in Cairo Tuesday, replacing the American flag with an Islamic banner, hours before believers in Benghazi, Libya set fire to the US consulate there, killing the US ambassador and three consular staffers.
The low-budget, amateur film, entitled "Innocence of Muslims," runs for 14 minutes and portrays Muhammad as a womanizer who approved of pedophilia.
Any depiction of the prophet, full stop, is highly offensive to Muslims – let alone in such an inflammatory manner.
YouTube has left the video up on its site, but due to the violence in Northern Africa, has selectively blocked access to it in Egypt and Libya.
In a rare public commentary, YouTube said in a statement that maintaining an environment in which all opinions can be expressed, and which everyone can enjoy, "can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video – which is widely available on the web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries. Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered in yesterday's attack in Libya."
The video was posted in early July by a user calling himself Sam Bacile. It received only a handful of views for two months, when suddenly it was dubbed into Arabic – then shown on Egyptian television, enraging conservative Muslim viewers.
Following the attacks on American diplomatic missions, US President Barack Obama condemned the violence and called on American security services to ramp up protection of the country's diplomats stationed abroad.
In the Wednesday statement, Obama promised to "bring justice to the killers who attacked our people."
"We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others," he said. "But there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence, none."