Google's new policy to widen control on 'extremist' videos on YouTube

Olive Hawkins
November 14, 2017

Anwar al-Awlaki, an American cleric and leading English-language jihadist recruiter, has helped inspire a generation of terrorists, including the Boston Marathon bombers, the Fort Hood gunman, and those behind the shootings in Orlando, Fla. and San Bernardino, Calif.

But Awlaki's online messages still help recruit terrorists to commit violence after his death, and many of his lectures and other videos were on YouTube, garnering many views, until recently.

Despite his death in a United States drone strike in 2011, Awlaki's legacy lived on with more than 70,00o videos accessible on YouTube.

Up until his death at the hands of USA forces in 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki was a major voice for Islamic extremists, advocating for war and attacks against the United States, and helped to inspire numerous terrorist attacks around the world.

Thousands of videos from Anwar al-Awlaki have been removed from YouTube.

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That number has since been reduced to around 18,500, and the majority of videos available appear to be news reports and documentaries about his life and death.

YouTube has reportedly banned almost 70,000 videos depicting lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, an extremist jihadist who exhorted Muslims to kill Americans.

Tech giants Google, Facebook and Twitter have come under intense scrutiny from governments and anti-terrorism advocates over the dissemination of extremist, hateful and violent content on their sites as well as their failure to immediately remove them.

While Juniper Downs, YouTube's global director of public policy, noted this week that such measures could make it more hard for certain videos to gain an audience, I believe there's greater merit in creating a space that's free of extremist content and safer for people across the world to use.

"It's a watershed moment on the question of whether we're going to allow the unchecked proliferation of cyberjihad", Mark D. Wallace, former diplomat and current CEO of the Counter Extremism Project - a research organization that long called for Awlaki's videos to be taken down online.

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