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Google Refused Law Enforcement Request To Pull Police Brutality Video

Google has received requests from the government to remove certain videos from YouTube that display police brutality.

The reason for the government asking to remove these is to protect the public image. The police force aims to have control over the citizens as to preserve order. If the public sees the police as brutal or unfair, then the trust and respect for the police is reduced. However, due to the freedom of speech and expression, Google is able to deny the removal of these videos as they do not break any laws.

This situation can be understood through the concepts of an information cascade. Assume that the police force can have a numerical rating. This is positive is the force is overall more good, and negative if overall more brutal. Thus, while each interaction with a police officer can vary randomly, the overall tendency or average will tend to be either good (positive) or brutal (negative). Next, for simplicity assume that a citizen can either approve of the police force or disapprove. Approve indicates that the citizen is happy with the operation, and disapprove means the citizen thinks that the police force is more brutal and unfair.

In a sequential order, each citizen can decide to approve or disapprove of the police. Each citizen only has one interaction with the police. This serves as the direct information. Also, a citizen knows the approval of the previous citizens, as that spreads through conversation. The first citizen decides if the police is good or brutal using only the direct information. The second citizen considers his direct information, and the decision of the first citizen. This has the potential to set up an information cascade such that the majority of the citizens either approve of or disapprove of the police.

With the availability of video evidence of police brutality, citizens now have more direct and reliable information to base their decisions off of. Since such videos tend to be more popular than those showing positive or good police behavior, it is acceptable to model the scenario as only broadcasting police brutality. With this information, it is likely that the new citizen will ignore the previous chain of approvals, and still disapprove of the police. This breaks the chain, as information cascade is very fragile and only a small sample of external data can change the decision. Thus, it is unlikely to maintain a chain of approvals with the availability of such videos.

This gives an insight as to why the government wants to remove such videos. Regardless of whether the police is brutal or good, they want to maintain an information cascade such that most people approve of their operation. This is important as if the police were to be seen as being brutal or incompetent, there will be more cases or rioting and rebellion. Thus to protect this chain from the information cascade, the agency attempts to hide the direct information or negative evidence that may break the chain. By reducing the available information to the next citizen, this citizen will base the results more on previous citizens’ decisions which is easier for maintaining a specific standpoint.


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November 2011