YouTube’s enforcement priorities are a funny thing, but it’s still better than Twitter.
Despite being pressured to delete his videos for almost a decade, YouTube refused to remove al-Awlaki’s videos, which were used as terrorist propaganda. Al-Awlaki, who was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike was a senior recruiter for al-Qaeda.
In recent months, websites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have been pressured by governments to remove extremist content. Until now, the firms have focused their efforts on clamping down on conservative viewpoints, and content associated with terrorism has gone largely untouched.
More recently, YouTube disabled tens of thousands of videos relating to al-Awlaki—many of which mirrored his original content. The New York Times reports that the total number of videos relating to him are down to 18,600 from 70,000, with much of his hate-filled sermons deleted.
“It’s a watershed moment on the question of whether we’re going to allow the unchecked proliferation of cyberjihad,” said Mark D. Wallace, the chief executive of the Counter Extremism Project, according to the New York Times. “You just don’t want to make it easy for people to listen to a guy who wants to harm us.”
Al-Awlaki’s recruitment efforts gained popularity after his death due to his purported martyrdom, allegedly convincing terrorists like the Orlando night club shooter Omar Mateen to take up arms for jihad. Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 58 others.
Victims’ families contend that Google (which owns YouTube), Facebook, and Twitter “provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts they use to spread extremist propaganda, raise funds, and attract new recruits.” In 2016, the families sued the companies, reported Fox News.
“Without Defendants Twitter, Facebook, and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible,” the lawsuit stated.
Legal experts say that the lawsuit is a pointless endeavor because of legislation and First Amendment protections accorded to social media platforms. Speaking to the Daily Caller, Josh Blackman, associate professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston said that lawyers suing the three companies will have to prove that the tech firms “knowingly” provided assistance to terrorists.
Due to preexisting protections, companies like YouTube will have to make their own initiatives to remove extremist content from their platforms. Given its recent actions, it would seem that the company’s finally ready to do just that, and only a few years too late.
Staff Writer for the now defunct DANGEROUS.