The BC Civil Liberties Association along with the Centre for Free Expression and other co-signers have written to the CEOs of Zoom and YouTube to express our deep concern with the companies’ censorship of an academic roundtable at a US university.
This action points to the new threat to academic freedom by emerging technology platforms when, because of the coronavirus pandemic, most classes and other educational activities of universities and colleges are only possible through platforms such as Zoom and YouTube.
The event to which they denied access was an online roundtable that was part of San Francisco State University’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies program. Titled “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance”, one of the invited panelists was Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The roundtable was scheduled to be hosted on Zoom, pursuant to the platform’s agreement with the University. After becoming aware of the planned discussion, organizations which oppose PFLP’s activities or politics pressured San Francisco State University to cancel the roundtable. After Zoom’s refusal, roundtable organizers attempted to move the event to YouTube. But after approximately 23 minutes, YouTube stopped the livestream – despite its stated position that it “believes people should be able to speak freely, share opinions, foster open dialogue,” and that “everyone should have easy, open access to information.”
The companies’ decisions undermine their purported support for free expression, and raise serious questions about the utility of the platforms for academic purposes and threats to academic freedom.
Read the full letter here.