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A Case of Selective Censorship

The recent pull of Saturday Night Lives' Bailout skit has got us wondering -- why did NBC choose to upload their popular Palin skits on several massive online video platforms (hulu.com, youtube.com) but in the same week, aggressively clean the web of this Bailout skit? Some have argued that this was done in fear that the Bailout skit would sharpen criticism of democrats and therefore hurt Barack Obama's campaign.

A closer look at the details offers the explanation of a potential law suit from "victims" of the bailout skit. The underlying issue for us at the Center, however, is the simplicity with which NBC can decide to push or pull their information on the Web. In this increasingly open environment, we sometimes take for granted what rules we play by. Commercial media still possess very powerful levers which they can turn information on and off at will. Mark Hopkins writes a fascinating article dealing with this very issue where he states, "Right now is a pivotal point where we can either take ownership of what we create and consume, or see that ownership taken away from us by either corporations or governments acting on behalf of them."

Satire has always been a strong tool for social critique, but has gained particular currency on open platforms which allow users to share, remix and critique the clips. The answer to legal challenges isn't censorship; it's transparency.