Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2010 / 6 Teves, 5771
Anger over YouTube allowing users to decide on terrorism-related videos
By Brian Bennett
The company has been under fire from lawmakers for refusing to prescreen terrorist speeches and propaganda videos. Now viewers can mark such uploads for removal. Some have already found the move "troubling"
Some have already found the move "troubling"
YouTube and its parent company,
But rather than submit to policies that many argue would amount to an erosion of First Amendment rights, particularly in an open-access environment such as the Internet, YouTube is letting the customers decide.
The approach puts YouTube in the middle of a debate over whether it is possible to protect free speech and deny militants a powerful recruitment tool — slick videos glorifying jihad that reach into the laptops and minds of disaffected young Americans.
After years of calling on YouTube to take down content produced by Islamic extremists, Sen.
"But it shouldn't take a letter from
Yet the new category also is "potentially troubling," said
In November, YouTube removed hundreds of videos that featured the American cleric Anwar Awlaki, whom U.S. officials have designated a "global terrorist," after Rep.
Despite YouTube's action, dozens of Awlaki's speeches are easily found on the site, and users who play the speeches are directed to dozens of other Islamic militant videos under a "suggestions" column.
YouTube has been a favorite tool of Awlaki, who is believed to be hiding in
U.S. investigators working on domestic terrorism cases during the past five years have repeatedly found Awlaki's English-language speech "Constants on the Path to Jihad" shared among circles of would-be plotters. The speech, which is still on YouTube, is a lengthy interpretation of the religious justifications for fighting against perceived enemies of Islam.
If a father forbids his son to fight, Awlaki says at one point, the son should disobey. "When the command of Allah clashes with the command of the parents," Awlaki says, "he will obey the command of Allah."
After a 21-year-old woman told a British judge that she was inspired to stab a parliamentarian in March after she watched Awlaki's speeches on YouTube,
"Those websites would categorically not be allowed in 1/8
YouTube executives say they are committed to ensuring that the website is not used to "spread terrorist propaganda or incite violence." But given the massive amount of video uploaded to YouTube — more than 24 hours every minute — it is "simply not possible" to prescreen the content, YouTube executive
But when it comes to deciding whether a video is religious free speech or promotes terrorism, YouTube aims "to draw a careful line between enabling free expression and religious speech, while prohibiting content that incites violence."
It is admirable that YouTube devotes resources to consider religious speech on a case-by-case basis, said Rosen, the law professor. "It is precisely the speech of those we hate that needs the most protection if free expression is going to flourish."
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© 2010, , Tribune Co. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services