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

YouTube has removed thousands of videos from extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki

YouTube recently took the unusual step of removing tens of thousands of videos of the cleric, according to a report in The New York Times.

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. A USA drone strike in 2011 killed Awlaki, who had ties to multiple hijackers in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when he was an al Qaeda leader in Yemen. However, the publication reported that only 18,600 videos came up when Awlaki's name was searched on Sunday, as opposed to 70,000 videos that came up earlier this fall.

It added that it removes all videos and terminates accounts registered by members of a "designated foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) and used in an official capacity to further the interests of the FTO". His radical message was reportedly influential in attacks on the Boston Marathon, in Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Orlando.

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.

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"It's a watershed moment on the question of whether we're going to allow the unchecked proliferation of cyberjihad", said Mark D. Wallace, chief executive of the Counter Extremism Project, a research organization that has previously called for Awlaki's recordings to be removed from the web.

YouTube's efforts to clear Awlaki's work are a part of its larger efforts to eradicate terrorism-related content from the site. "You just don't want to make it easy for people to listen to a guy who wants to harm us".

The three websites have all revealed that Russian actors used their platforms during the 2016 presidential campaign to spread propaganda and pose as American voters.

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