RTIwala Trending: Google, in the last few months has removed extremist videos from YouTube. The videos that depict violence or preach hate have been removed as a move by the authorities. A major policy shift has risen up for YouTube, as social media companies face increasing pressure from governments. The new policy will affect videos that feature people and groups that have been designated as terrorist by the U.S. or British governments. Also, the videos that lack the gory violence or hateful speech that was already barred by YouTube have been removed. A YouTube spokesperson confirmed the policy in response to questions. The company would not be specifying the time when the policy went into effect.
Why the takedown?
YouTube has terms that already barred “terrorists” from using the service. The new policy keeps out videos uploaded by other militants who likely would try to distribute if they could have accounts. Hundreds of videos of Al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki lecturing on the history of Islam were among those that have been removed under the new policy. The video was recorded long before he provoked violence against the United States. Governments and human rights groups have pressed YouTube for years to chink down on extremist videos. They quarrel on the basis that the propaganda radicalized viewers and contributed to deadly terror attacks.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd augmented the pressure during visits with tech companies in Silicon Valley in July along with a speech in Washington, D.C. last week. The European Union and U.S. lawmakers have time and again threatened consequences for tech companies if concerns are not addressed as soon as possible. A German law was approved in June to fine social media companies 50 million Euros ($57 million) if hateful postings were not promptly removed.
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YouTube said discussions with outside experts prompted the new policy. However, it was unclear why the company decided to act only recently. In June, the company announced that “inflammatory religious or supremacist content” that did not violate its policies would be allowed with warning labels and a restriction making them ineligible for ad revenue.
More insight into the techie world
The latest step was praised by the likes of critics such as Paul Barrett. He is the Deputy Director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. “If the terrorist is in the business of recruiting and inciting people to make violent attacks, you’ve got to the draw the line against any of their content”, Barrett said.
The new policy does not affect in any way the news clips or educational videos about terrorism. However, YouTube will not always have an easy time distinguishing. The pointing to tactics such as overlaying extremist commentary on news footage to get around censors will be hard to discover. YouTube has resisted imposing more editorial control. It fears that it will make it harder for important videos to get a wide audience.
Internet freedom advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have urged tech companies to be vigilant and clear as crystal in responding to government pressure. YouTube is relying on government lists of terrorists and terrorist groups for enforcement. Content moderators check the list and make removal decisions after fielding information from an automated system. It may be users or partner organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and The Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
Al-Awlaki was killed by the U.S. in a 2011 drone strike. He was designated a terrorist by the U.S. Treasury the year prior. It was The New York Times who first reported the removal of al-Awlaki videos.