YouTube’s been hard at work trying to suppress the number of extremist videos shared on their platform, and it’s been reported that their efforts have just lead to the removal of thousands of videos from the extremist cleric, who was a major voice for Islamic extremists, inspiring terrorist attacks around the world and promoting war against the United States. Though he was killed back in 2011 by an American drone strike, his message through videos have continued to provide a voice to extremists.
YouTube hasn’t publically admitted that they have taken down videos of al-Awlaki, but if you look at the number of videos surrounding al-Awlaki, you can tell that YouTube has removed a number of them. Earlier this fall, al-Awlaki was featured in over 70,000 videos, but now there’s just 18,600. Though only his later videos violated YouTube’s guidelines, YouTube’s seems to have decided that some of his videos we’re suitable enough to be left alone. The videos that are left are reportedly news stories, rejections of extremist views, discussions of the legality of the drone strike and videos from people other than al-Awlaki.
Supporters of al-Awlaki have in the past reposted his material in showing support of his message. YouTube hopes that by getting rid of everything, there won’t be any message for these supporters to rally around.
This is a tricky situation for YouTube. They are constantly having to decide which videos are appropriate and which they need to take down. In this situation, they decided that they had to take down al-Awlaki videos, believing that they weren’t covered by freedom of expression and were promoting violence. YouTube will no doubt continue to have to decide if videos in the grey area, like al-Awlaki’s, should stay on their platform.