Google may rule the online world, but its sandal-wearing übergeeks still respect inbred chinless blue bloods and military dictators, it would seem. Google has done a little evil, kowtowed to royal lineage (and brute force) and taken the axe to four YouTube videos - simply because Thailand's non-democratic government claimed the clips insult the country's King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Thai authorities initially blocked Google's YouTube because of a clip that outraged Thai Buddhists. Now, far be it from me to suggest that Thai Buddhists are easily offended, but the clip is 'outrageous' due to "the juxtaposition of a pair of woman's feet, the lowest part of the body, above his [Adulyadej's] head, the highest part of the body".
It sounds shocking, I agree, but not shocking enough to drag me away from Monkey Karate or the snake eating a hippo. Google, to its credit, initially refused to pull the posting, despite this meaning YouTube remaining unavailable to Thai surfers.
But when 12 further 'offensive' clips appeared on YouTube, Thailand threatened to sue and Google retracted its cojones and backed away, bowing and scraping. Google removed four clips, saw to it that a further six were pulled down by their posters, and left a paltry two for the eyes of the world (er, excluding Thailand) to see.
Google is, of course, in an invidious position in situations such as these. It has to have a working relationship with governments, particularly totalitarian dictatorships (and their token 'kings' as is the case in Thailand), or lose YouTube's platform. And Google has to sell adverts.
But what Google does matters, and it matters for all sorts of reasons - size, ubiquity and the perception of the world that Google is a force for good will do for a start. So when non-democratic leaders get to bully the world's favourite search engine, it chips away at the veneer of the borderless, democratic world that is Web 2.0. It makes me a little sad, and somewhere a hippy cries.
And anyway, Thai people deserve to see Will it blend - iPod?. As I write, YouTube remains unavailable in Thailand.