YouTube Crackdown Removes Thousands of Videos from Radicalized Cleric

What happened?

After pressure from the government, YouTube has backed down on its stance that the Google-owned company isn’t responsible for user content. The site has removed a trove of videos with talks from Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who became radicalized while he lived in London.

How many videos were removed?

Awlaki was put on the terrorist kill list under President Barack Obama and was killed in a drone strike along with three other Al Qaeda members in Yemen in 2011. After his death, his followers celebrated him as a martyr and posted more and more of his videos on YouTube, making him the internet’s top English-language jihadist recruiter.

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This fall, the site held more than 70,000 videos with Awlaki’s work; after YouTube’s purge, searching his name only brings up around 18,000 videos, most of which deal with news reports about his death and other tangential material.

Can people simply re-upload them?

In theory, no. YouTube says that human reviewers must flag videos to start the process, but once they’re banned, a digital function will automatically delete more uploads of the same clip.

Glenn’s take:  

It’s great that Google and YouTube are finally taking steps to stop terrorist rhetoric from spreading on the video platform, but they must continue to be held accountable.

“We need to keep an eye on this,” Glenn said.