Anwar al-Awlaki videos finally blocked by YouTube

Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American cleric who became one of the most recognizable jihadist recruiters on the internet, was killed in a drone strike seven years ago.

Yesterday, YouTube finally got around to blocking most of the 70,000 videos he had posted on the site.

The New York Times called YouTube's action a "watershed moment" for social media.  I would call it simply "too late."

Mashable:

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and even Airbnb have long claimed that they're just platforms that bear no responsibility for the material that appears on them. In the post-Russian election interference era, however, some of these platforms have been forced to start accepting slightly more responsibility. 

The videos that once populated YouTube ranged from Awlaki's early work as a mainstream imam in the U.S. to his later association with Al Qaeda. Some of his videos were mainstream lectures about Islamic history, but counterterrorism groups had called for all of his archives to be deleted since those lectures often led to other videos promoting jihad. 

The 18,600 videos that remain are news reports about and debates over the legality of Awlaki's death and commentary and condemnations of his work by scholars, the Times reported. YouTube deleted additional videos of Awlaki speaking after the Times asked about them. 

Awlaki's online presence shaped terrorists including the Boston Marathon bombers, the Fort Hood gunman, and shooters in Orlando, Florida and San Bernardino, California. 

YouTube told the New York Times that human reviewers made the decision to get rid of initial videos, and then digital tools parsed through the site to delete additional copies. YouTube, which is owned by Google, didn't respond to request for comment from Mashable. 

YouTube has been quick on the trigger to ban some conservatives from posting videos on its site, so the seven-year delay in banning videos from a dead terrorist is incomprehensible.  I don't think we can rationally claim that YouTube supports the recruitment and incitement of terrorists.  But at the very least, the platform's aversion to domestic politics it disagrees with calls into question the consistency of its policies.

I think any video that advocates violence, whether it's from a Muslim, Antifa, a Klansman, or a communist, should be banned.  That should be the standard.  But conservatives who post controversial viewpoints that don't advocate violence should be allowed the freedom to get their message out.  All too often, we've seen political viewpoints at odds with liberal dogma being deleted from the site while tens of thousands of jihadist videos are allowed to remain.

And al-Awlaki is only the tip of the iceberg.  The Islamic State has posted hundreds of thousands of tweets, Facebook entries, and YouTube videos on social media sites.  Obviously, we can't scrub all of them from the internet.  But we can certainly make a better effort to police these sites to prevent terrorist groups from growing their armies.

Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American cleric who became one of the most recognizable jihadist recruiters on the internet, was killed in a drone strike seven years ago.

Yesterday, YouTube finally got around to blocking most of the 70,000 videos he had posted on the site.

The New York Times called YouTube's action a "watershed moment" for social media.  I would call it simply "too late."

Mashable:

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and even Airbnb have long claimed that they're just platforms that bear no responsibility for the material that appears on them. In the post-Russian election interference era, however, some of these platforms have been forced to start accepting slightly more responsibility. 

The videos that once populated YouTube ranged from Awlaki's early work as a mainstream imam in the U.S. to his later association with Al Qaeda. Some of his videos were mainstream lectures about Islamic history, but counterterrorism groups had called for all of his archives to be deleted since those lectures often led to other videos promoting jihad. 

The 18,600 videos that remain are news reports about and debates over the legality of Awlaki's death and commentary and condemnations of his work by scholars, the Times reported. YouTube deleted additional videos of Awlaki speaking after the Times asked about them. 

Awlaki's online presence shaped terrorists including the Boston Marathon bombers, the Fort Hood gunman, and shooters in Orlando, Florida and San Bernardino, California. 

YouTube told the New York Times that human reviewers made the decision to get rid of initial videos, and then digital tools parsed through the site to delete additional copies. YouTube, which is owned by Google, didn't respond to request for comment from Mashable. 

YouTube has been quick on the trigger to ban some conservatives from posting videos on its site, so the seven-year delay in banning videos from a dead terrorist is incomprehensible.  I don't think we can rationally claim that YouTube supports the recruitment and incitement of terrorists.  But at the very least, the platform's aversion to domestic politics it disagrees with calls into question the consistency of its policies.

I think any video that advocates violence, whether it's from a Muslim, Antifa, a Klansman, or a communist, should be banned.  That should be the standard.  But conservatives who post controversial viewpoints that don't advocate violence should be allowed the freedom to get their message out.  All too often, we've seen political viewpoints at odds with liberal dogma being deleted from the site while tens of thousands of jihadist videos are allowed to remain.

And al-Awlaki is only the tip of the iceberg.  The Islamic State has posted hundreds of thousands of tweets, Facebook entries, and YouTube videos on social media sites.  Obviously, we can't scrub all of them from the internet.  But we can certainly make a better effort to police these sites to prevent terrorist groups from growing their armies.

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