YouTube has blocked a video attacking Islam's prophet Muhammad in Egypt and Libya, where angry protests were sparked by outrage at the video.
Ultraconservative Muslims enflamed by the video stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Tuesday and replaced an American flag with an Islamic banner. Later Tuesday evening, protesters in Libya burned down the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three members of his staff.
The 14-minute video is a trailer to an amateurish, low-budget movie titled "Innocence of Muslims,'' which depicts Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse. Muslims find it offensive to depict Muhammad in any manner, let alone insult the prophet.
YouTube has elected to leave the video on its website, saying it doesn't violate its policies, but has blocked access to it in Egypt and Libya. The Google-Inc. video site took the unusual step Wednesday of publicly commenting on the video, a practice it typically eschews.
"We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions,'' YouTube said in a statement. "This 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 uploaded on July 2 by a YouTube user going by the name Sam Bacile. After sitting dormant and largely unwatched for two months, it was dubbed into Arabic and excerpts gained airplay on TV networks in Egypt, enraging ultraconservative viewers.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the attack in Benghazi and ordered increased security to protect American diplomatic personnel around the world. He pledged to ``bring justice to the killers who attacked our people.''
"We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,'' said Obama. ``But there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence, none.''