YouTube has finally taken a step toward blocking jihadist recruitment videos from being shown. The company blocked most of the 70,000 videos posted by Anwar al-Alwaki, the leading English-speaking jihadist recruiter on the site.
Did I mention that al-Awlaki has been dead for seven years, after being killed in a drone strike in Yemen?
The New York Times called YouTube’s action a “watershed moment.”
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.
I’d say “it’s about time,” but it isn’t. It’s way, way, way past time and YouTube and other media platforms have oceans of blood on their hands. How many young Muslims were seduced by these evil people? How many of them lost their lives and how many lives did they take before earning their 72 virgins?
Political correctness allowed YouTube and others to hide behind the Constitution rather than delete the offending videos. It remains to be seen whether they’ve learned their lesson. That’s because al-Awlaki is small potatoes compared to ISIS. The Islamic State has hundreds of thousands of videos, tweets, Instagram posts, and Facebook entries. They are all designed to appeal to desperate, lonely, aimless youths who see the Islamic State as the answer to a prayer.
We’re never going to scrub all jihad media from the web. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. And our failure doesn’t mean we have to tolerate the pure hatred and evil that is being broadcast to tens of millions of people worldwide.