Is YouTube Fueling Jihad?

Is YouTube a training site for terrorists? Gordon Rayner, political editor for the UK Daily Telegraph has discovered that British "counter-terrorism officers secretly recorded an alleged ISIL-inspired terror cell . . . discussing how to use YouTube to plot a van and knife attack in London."

In June 2017, Ruthie Blum at Gatestone Institute asserts that both "YouTube and Google, are effectively being accessories to murder. They are also inviting class-action lawsuits from families and individuals victimized by terrorism. They need to be held criminally liable for aiding and abetting mass murder." And while Google announced that it would "fight terrorism online," Blum asserts that Google and YouTube are "getting away with promoting jihad for a profit while disingenuously hiding behind the banner of free speech."

In 2015, The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) "researched and flagged YouTube videos of support for jihadi fighters and 'martyrs' and 'martyrdom,' to test the platform's 'Promotes Terrorism' flaggng feature."  As a result of the research, "by mid March 2017, major companies began halting or reducing advertising deals with YouTube owner Google because Google had allowed their brands to become intertwined with terrorist and extremist content on YouTube. These companies have, so far, included AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, the car rental company Enterprise Holdings, and drug manufacturer GSK. According to media reports, ordinary ads have been appearing alongside user-uploaded YouTube videos promoting hatred and extremism."  Nonetheless, Steve Stalinsky, Executive Director of MEMRI explains that "You Tube's removal of jihadi content is spotty" and inconsistent.  In fact, ". . . , 69 out of 115 videos remain active, highlighting the failure of YouTube's flagging system."

In 2016, npr.org asserted that "Zuckerberg didn't sign up to head a media company -- . . .  that has to make editorial judgments."  Thus, "[h]e and his team have made a very complex set of contradictory rules — a bias toward restricted speech for regular users, and toward free speech for 'news' (real or fake)."

At Foreign Policy, author Nanjala Nyabola in October 2016 maintained that ". . .  there’s a dark side to [Facebook's] Free Basics that has the potential to do more harm than good [.]  The app is . . . a version of the internet that gives Facebook — and by extension the corporations and governments that partner with Facebook — total control over what its users can access."  It is important to note that "in many African countries, traditional media has been co-opted by the state [.]" Thus, Nyabola asserts that "this record of collaborating with governments should make us wary of Free Basics. The app is only worth the gamble if one believes that governments where it’s been rolled out have the best interests of their citizens at heart — a presumption that is unwarranted in much of Africa."

In November 2016 Aaron M. Renn wrote that "[i]t’s long been known that social-media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (owned by Google) delete significant amounts of user-posted content. Some of what gets removed is in clear violation of legitimate standards governing pornography and pirated content. But a lot of what gets pulled down is neither offensive nor illegal. Rather, it is content whose message these platforms disagree with."

Consequently, "[t]he practice has affected a lot of conservatives — like Milo Yiannopoulos, banned for life from Twitter — but is hardly limited to them. Even hardcore leftist feminist groups have fallen afoul of the corporate censors" as has Prager University's five minute videos which have been restricted by You Tube. Often "public complaint is  . . . . enough to force a platform to restore deleted posts or accounts. Recently, however, the social media giants have begun refusing to reverse their censorious decisions, even in the face of significant bad press."

Moreover, in 2016 Kyle Shideler highlighted the fact that Twitter verified @Ikhwanweb, the official twitter handle of the Muslim Brotherhood which has spawned numerous terrorist organizations.

In addition, Facebook's Little Ethics Problem reveals that "Facebook has been aiding abusers of human-rights -- such as China, Turkey, Russia and Pakistan -- to curb the freedom of expression of their people."

Moreover, "religious extremists bent on silencing such 'blasphemers' and 'apostates' [i.e., Ex-Muslims of North America] troll social media and abuse Facebook's complaint system" thus demanding the "censorship of atheists and secularists." 

Clearly there is a double standard at Facebook when "the 'Stop Palestinians' page that incited against Palestinians was removed by Facebook . . . for 'containing credible threat[s] of violence which violated [their] community standards' but the 'Stop Israelis' page that incited against Israelis, was not removed."  When initially asked, Facebook responded that the latter page "was 'not in violation of Facebook's rules.'"

Darshan-Leitner, head of the Israel Law Center states that "Facebook's insistence that it cannot control all the content on its pages is disingenuous, if not an outright lie. After all, its algorithms are perfectly accurate when it comes to detecting users' shopping habits."  It was only after a "huge outcry in the Hebrew press and on social media, that Facebook changed its initial judgment and removed the anti-Semitic page."  Despite this, Darshan-Leitner "does not consider Facebook guilty of incitement."

Daniel Greenfield writes about an additional threat when he highlights the intrusion of radical leftwing groups into alleged fact checking.  Thus, "[t]hanks to $1.3 million in grant funding from the Omidyar Network and the Open Society Foundations, the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN) can now expand its work . . . to reward new formats and business models for fact-checking [.]"

Yet, Open Society Foundations is George Soros' brainchild and Omidyar Network is an Iranian pro-terror site established by Pierre Omidyar who is also the founder of the online auction site eBay.  According to Greenfield, Omidyar has "financed a war on national security and Israel through anti-American sites such as 'The Intercept.'"

Greenfield maintains that "Facebook and Google's embedding of partisan left-wing 'fact checking' sites is one of the greatest assaults on freedom of expression on the internet. And now the partisan sites are about to fall further into the fever swamps of left-wing extremism. He believes that Congressional Republicans should call out Google and Facebook for their double standard in advocating Net Neutrality while pushing Opinion Bias."

Soeren Kern explains that "[t]he European Union (EU), in partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft, has unveiled a 'code of conduct' to combat the spread of 'illegal hate speech' online in Europe. Proponents of the initiative argue that in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, a crackdown on 'hate speech' is necessary to counter jihadist propaganda online."  Germany will  punish social media giants with fines  of up to 50 million euros ($57 million dollars) if they fail to remove what Germany decides is "illegal hate speech" which is any criticism of Islam or illegal alien Muslims."

But "[o]pponents counter that the initiative amounts to an assault on free speech in Europe. They say that the EU's definition of 'hate speech' and 'incitement to violence' is so vague that it could include virtually anything deemed politically incorrect by European authorities, including criticism of mass migration, Islam or even the European Union itself."

And, in fact, Douglas Murray asserts that "[b]y deciding that 'xenophobic' comment in reaction to the [immigrant] crisis is also 'racist,' Facebook has made the view of the majority of the European people . . . into 'racist' views, and so is condemning the majority of Europeans as 'racist.'"

On June 29, 2017, A.Z. Mohamed recounted how "some disembodied entity at Google apparently decided . . . to censor all the contents from historically accurate think tank postings" critiquing the ideas of the "founders of political Islam Sayyed Qutb and Hassan al-Banna, who openly explained that Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments." This gives protective camouflage to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and others who falsely claim that sharia law and the United States Constitution share the same values. 

Mark Grabowski, a contributor to the Washington Times, discusses what constitutes a public forum where people are free to speak their minds but explains that "if Twitter continues down its censorious path [of banning controversial right-wing pundits] --, it might find itself in court -- and lose."  In essence, "Twitter's censorship may be unconstitutional." 

Yet, "speech on social media can be censored because private companies own those cyber spaces."  In fact, George Khoury explains that "the First Amendment only protects people from the government restricting their speech unreasonably."  Thus, "[s]ince websites are privately owned, websites are free to develop their own policies regarding what is or isn't allowed."  Khoury asserts, however, that if a person posts "something online that is not true, is deceptive or fraudulent, or is viewed as a credible threat of violence or a criminal act" the First Amendment does not apply.  Additionally , there is the "legal liability a person can face for posting untrue speech." Also, "credible criminal threats, even those made anonymously online, can land [someone] in jail."  But the CDA 230 "safe harbor" provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act maintains that "social media platforms aren't responsible for the content that their users produce."

Kalev Leetaru at Forbes ponders the implications of the internet "evolving away from freedom of speech" when he writes that "Twitter’s chronology of rules vividly illustrates [an] increasing transition of the web from a blind and neutral conduit of information and ideas that allowed any idea to flourish and spread across the web to an era of active moderation and censorship." In 2015 "when the US Congress wrote Twitter CEO Dick Costolo last year demanding that the company take action to reduce ISIS propaganda being disseminated on the platform, Twitter’s general counsel instead promised to uphold 'the ability of users to share freely their views — including views that many people may disagree with or find abhorrent.' Yet, after further public outcry, the company silently reversed course and began to suspend reported ISIS supporter accounts."

Consequently, these online platforms are beginning to "assume some of the same functions and responsibilities as a government and court system, only without the infrastructure of access, appeals, representation, and due process."

And so the conundrum continues.  What actual responsibility do social media sites have that differ, for example, from a publisher of books such as Mein Kampf?  Are words and pictures incitement to violence? Do groups advocating terror fall into a different designation? As groups bent on destroying Western civilization claim hate speech for just about anything, are they abusing these freedoms in an effort to undermine them altogether? On the other hand, is the way to fight hate to publicly expose it and debunk it with facts -- thus engaging in the counterspeech doctrine wherein ". . . the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence." Or will censorship ultimately come at great potential cost?

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com

Is YouTube a training site for terrorists? Gordon Rayner, political editor for the UK Daily Telegraph has discovered that British "counter-terrorism officers secretly recorded an alleged ISIL-inspired terror cell . . . discussing how to use YouTube to plot a van and knife attack in London."

In June 2017, Ruthie Blum at Gatestone Institute asserts that both "YouTube and Google, are effectively being accessories to murder. They are also inviting class-action lawsuits from families and individuals victimized by terrorism. They need to be held criminally liable for aiding and abetting mass murder." And while Google announced that it would "fight terrorism online," Blum asserts that Google and YouTube are "getting away with promoting jihad for a profit while disingenuously hiding behind the banner of free speech."

In 2015, The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) "researched and flagged YouTube videos of support for jihadi fighters and 'martyrs' and 'martyrdom,' to test the platform's 'Promotes Terrorism' flaggng feature."  As a result of the research, "by mid March 2017, major companies began halting or reducing advertising deals with YouTube owner Google because Google had allowed their brands to become intertwined with terrorist and extremist content on YouTube. These companies have, so far, included AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, the car rental company Enterprise Holdings, and drug manufacturer GSK. According to media reports, ordinary ads have been appearing alongside user-uploaded YouTube videos promoting hatred and extremism."  Nonetheless, Steve Stalinsky, Executive Director of MEMRI explains that "You Tube's removal of jihadi content is spotty" and inconsistent.  In fact, ". . . , 69 out of 115 videos remain active, highlighting the failure of YouTube's flagging system."

In 2016, npr.org asserted that "Zuckerberg didn't sign up to head a media company -- . . .  that has to make editorial judgments."  Thus, "[h]e and his team have made a very complex set of contradictory rules — a bias toward restricted speech for regular users, and toward free speech for 'news' (real or fake)."

At Foreign Policy, author Nanjala Nyabola in October 2016 maintained that ". . .  there’s a dark side to [Facebook's] Free Basics that has the potential to do more harm than good [.]  The app is . . . a version of the internet that gives Facebook — and by extension the corporations and governments that partner with Facebook — total control over what its users can access."  It is important to note that "in many African countries, traditional media has been co-opted by the state [.]" Thus, Nyabola asserts that "this record of collaborating with governments should make us wary of Free Basics. The app is only worth the gamble if one believes that governments where it’s been rolled out have the best interests of their citizens at heart — a presumption that is unwarranted in much of Africa."

In November 2016 Aaron M. Renn wrote that "[i]t’s long been known that social-media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (owned by Google) delete significant amounts of user-posted content. Some of what gets removed is in clear violation of legitimate standards governing pornography and pirated content. But a lot of what gets pulled down is neither offensive nor illegal. Rather, it is content whose message these platforms disagree with."

Consequently, "[t]he practice has affected a lot of conservatives — like Milo Yiannopoulos, banned for life from Twitter — but is hardly limited to them. Even hardcore leftist feminist groups have fallen afoul of the corporate censors" as has Prager University's five minute videos which have been restricted by You Tube. Often "public complaint is  . . . . enough to force a platform to restore deleted posts or accounts. Recently, however, the social media giants have begun refusing to reverse their censorious decisions, even in the face of significant bad press."

Moreover, in 2016 Kyle Shideler highlighted the fact that Twitter verified @Ikhwanweb, the official twitter handle of the Muslim Brotherhood which has spawned numerous terrorist organizations.

In addition, Facebook's Little Ethics Problem reveals that "Facebook has been aiding abusers of human-rights -- such as China, Turkey, Russia and Pakistan -- to curb the freedom of expression of their people."

Moreover, "religious extremists bent on silencing such 'blasphemers' and 'apostates' [i.e., Ex-Muslims of North America] troll social media and abuse Facebook's complaint system" thus demanding the "censorship of atheists and secularists." 

Clearly there is a double standard at Facebook when "the 'Stop Palestinians' page that incited against Palestinians was removed by Facebook . . . for 'containing credible threat[s] of violence which violated [their] community standards' but the 'Stop Israelis' page that incited against Israelis, was not removed."  When initially asked, Facebook responded that the latter page "was 'not in violation of Facebook's rules.'"

Darshan-Leitner, head of the Israel Law Center states that "Facebook's insistence that it cannot control all the content on its pages is disingenuous, if not an outright lie. After all, its algorithms are perfectly accurate when it comes to detecting users' shopping habits."  It was only after a "huge outcry in the Hebrew press and on social media, that Facebook changed its initial judgment and removed the anti-Semitic page."  Despite this, Darshan-Leitner "does not consider Facebook guilty of incitement."

Daniel Greenfield writes about an additional threat when he highlights the intrusion of radical leftwing groups into alleged fact checking.  Thus, "[t]hanks to $1.3 million in grant funding from the Omidyar Network and the Open Society Foundations, the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN) can now expand its work . . . to reward new formats and business models for fact-checking [.]"

Yet, Open Society Foundations is George Soros' brainchild and Omidyar Network is an Iranian pro-terror site established by Pierre Omidyar who is also the founder of the online auction site eBay.  According to Greenfield, Omidyar has "financed a war on national security and Israel through anti-American sites such as 'The Intercept.'"

Greenfield maintains that "Facebook and Google's embedding of partisan left-wing 'fact checking' sites is one of the greatest assaults on freedom of expression on the internet. And now the partisan sites are about to fall further into the fever swamps of left-wing extremism. He believes that Congressional Republicans should call out Google and Facebook for their double standard in advocating Net Neutrality while pushing Opinion Bias."

Soeren Kern explains that "[t]he European Union (EU), in partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft, has unveiled a 'code of conduct' to combat the spread of 'illegal hate speech' online in Europe. Proponents of the initiative argue that in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, a crackdown on 'hate speech' is necessary to counter jihadist propaganda online."  Germany will  punish social media giants with fines  of up to 50 million euros ($57 million dollars) if they fail to remove what Germany decides is "illegal hate speech" which is any criticism of Islam or illegal alien Muslims."

But "[o]pponents counter that the initiative amounts to an assault on free speech in Europe. They say that the EU's definition of 'hate speech' and 'incitement to violence' is so vague that it could include virtually anything deemed politically incorrect by European authorities, including criticism of mass migration, Islam or even the European Union itself."

And, in fact, Douglas Murray asserts that "[b]y deciding that 'xenophobic' comment in reaction to the [immigrant] crisis is also 'racist,' Facebook has made the view of the majority of the European people . . . into 'racist' views, and so is condemning the majority of Europeans as 'racist.'"

On June 29, 2017, A.Z. Mohamed recounted how "some disembodied entity at Google apparently decided . . . to censor all the contents from historically accurate think tank postings" critiquing the ideas of the "founders of political Islam Sayyed Qutb and Hassan al-Banna, who openly explained that Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments." This gives protective camouflage to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and others who falsely claim that sharia law and the United States Constitution share the same values. 

Mark Grabowski, a contributor to the Washington Times, discusses what constitutes a public forum where people are free to speak their minds but explains that "if Twitter continues down its censorious path [of banning controversial right-wing pundits] --, it might find itself in court -- and lose."  In essence, "Twitter's censorship may be unconstitutional." 

Yet, "speech on social media can be censored because private companies own those cyber spaces."  In fact, George Khoury explains that "the First Amendment only protects people from the government restricting their speech unreasonably."  Thus, "[s]ince websites are privately owned, websites are free to develop their own policies regarding what is or isn't allowed."  Khoury asserts, however, that if a person posts "something online that is not true, is deceptive or fraudulent, or is viewed as a credible threat of violence or a criminal act" the First Amendment does not apply.  Additionally , there is the "legal liability a person can face for posting untrue speech." Also, "credible criminal threats, even those made anonymously online, can land [someone] in jail."  But the CDA 230 "safe harbor" provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act maintains that "social media platforms aren't responsible for the content that their users produce."

Kalev Leetaru at Forbes ponders the implications of the internet "evolving away from freedom of speech" when he writes that "Twitter’s chronology of rules vividly illustrates [an] increasing transition of the web from a blind and neutral conduit of information and ideas that allowed any idea to flourish and spread across the web to an era of active moderation and censorship." In 2015 "when the US Congress wrote Twitter CEO Dick Costolo last year demanding that the company take action to reduce ISIS propaganda being disseminated on the platform, Twitter’s general counsel instead promised to uphold 'the ability of users to share freely their views — including views that many people may disagree with or find abhorrent.' Yet, after further public outcry, the company silently reversed course and began to suspend reported ISIS supporter accounts."

Consequently, these online platforms are beginning to "assume some of the same functions and responsibilities as a government and court system, only without the infrastructure of access, appeals, representation, and due process."

And so the conundrum continues.  What actual responsibility do social media sites have that differ, for example, from a publisher of books such as Mein Kampf?  Are words and pictures incitement to violence? Do groups advocating terror fall into a different designation? As groups bent on destroying Western civilization claim hate speech for just about anything, are they abusing these freedoms in an effort to undermine them altogether? On the other hand, is the way to fight hate to publicly expose it and debunk it with facts -- thus engaging in the counterspeech doctrine wherein ". . . the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence." Or will censorship ultimately come at great potential cost?

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com

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