Culture of transparencyTuesday, August 7, 2007 at 0:43 | Posted in Germany, great britain, internet, transparency, video, youtube | 6 Comments
A month ago I uploaded to YouTube a funny video featuring German soldiers in Uzbekistan having some off duty fun. I wanted to contribute to the popular footage being accessible in the Internet after receiving information that the German Bundeswehr were anxious to get it down from the web and had apparently succeeded in persuading everybody who had uploaded it before me to take it down.
Shortly after uploading the video I received some anonymous correspondence. The first letter had a somewhat harsh tone. I was outright threatened with legal action with implications to criminal charges.
As soon as the language of those messages was changed from German to English, the tone also shifted to more appealing and conciliatory. The person writing to me implyed to be one of the persons appearing on the video and said it would be “helpful” to get it down. When I promised anonymity in exchange of information on the Bundeswehr activity in the matter I was promptly told that the army had not approached them to get it down.
Had I been convinced that there were real soldiers out there getting in trouble because of the video, I would have been likely to take it down. Since I had information from several sources that the Bundeswehr were indeed making an effort to get the footage out of the web and only one anonymous source saying the opposite I felt I needed some sort of confirmation to do anything. I pointed out that any information passed to me would be priviliged under confidentiality of sources of a journalist.
The correspondence promptly stopped as soon as I wrote back a message saying this. For all I know the person writing to me may have been somebody from the Bundeswehr staff trying to fool me into complying so I decided to leave things as they are. I have not heard anything about it in more that three weeks other than occasional comments added in YouTube, all of which are positive.
In contrast to the German military officials, the British Army seems to be very supportive of their service men’s off duty activities of this sort. This home coming video posted by British soldiers in Iraq is a proof of it: the end titles even appreciate that the local commander was encouraging the project.
I do not know if there is a difference between the British and German senses of humor or in the culture of transparency. Maybe the German forces just feel embarrassed to recognize that soldiers have an off duty life. What I do know, however, is that there is no way to actually pull back something which has been spread allover the Internet.