Privacy, media groups want anti-Muslim video kept online

A host of news outlets and privacy rights groups are urging a federal appeals court to keep the anti-Muslim video “Innocence of Muslims” on the Internet.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy and Technology and other groups filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday asking it to reverse a decision to take down the contested video, which was partially blamed for the 2012 attack at a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

“Whatever may be said about the merits of ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ it has unquestionably become part of the historical record,” the groups wrote.

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If the current ruling is left to stand, they added, it “is likely to harm online expression.”

The Washington Post, National Public Radio, Los Angeles Times and other news companies filed a similar friend-of-the-court brief, arguing that the decision to take down the disputed video “failed to adequately consider the impact its decision could have on core First Amendment rights” and “could empower putative plaintiffs to bypass well-established constitutional protections against restraints on speech...”

The groups are protesting the court’s 2-1 February decision ordering Google, which owns YouTube, to take the video offline. They are looking for a new decision from a slate of 11 judges on the panel, known as an en banc review.

The inflammatory video, created in 2012, sparked protests throughout the Muslim world and was partially implicated in the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans that year.

Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in the video, sued Google to take the video down after receiving death threats. She claims she was told she would be in an adventure film called “Desert Warrior,” and her voice was later dubbed over so that she seemed be blaspheming Islam.

"The film differs so radically from anything Garcia could have imagined when she was cast that it can’t possibly be authorized by any implied license she granted,” Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the majority opinion.