YouTube has expanded its crackdown efforts against content posted on the video-sharing platform deemed to be of potential interest to terrorists, meaning that those videos were not necessarily extremist in nature but have been tagged as being so anyway by the governments in the United States and United Kingdom. The move marks a major change in the Google-owned company’s policy toward videos shared via its service, previously taking down only content that contain hate speech or promote violence to viewers.
According to a new report by Reuters, the shift in policy means that videos of people and organizations branded as terrorists will be immediately removed even if these videos do not explicitly contain violent materials, racial slurs or condemnation against a specific group of people or organization. Last July, YouTube began to redirect users from videos that contain those extremist materials as part of an effort to bring users to playlists that instead counter propaganda campaigns by terrorists that aim to advance dangerous ideologies. The new redirect feature called Redirect Method is part of a broader effort by the Mountain View, California-based internet giant to combat extremism amid growing efforts by different radical groups to draw sympathy from the public through the internet. As part of the feature, users will be led to a playlist of videos that are meant to show counter-terrorism materials once they enter specific keywords that could potentially bring them to extremist videos. YouTube’s anti-extremist effort began to take effect last August, informing concerned content creators about the materials depicted in their videos as potentially bordering on extremism and warning them that these videos might be removed if certain standards were not met.
According to the Reuters report, a YouTube spokesman confirmed the expanded policy meant to clamp down on videos featuring non-extremist materials but may potentially be abused by terrorists, though it was not an official statement coming from the top management of the video-sharing service. For example, recent videos that have been taken down by YouTube as part of its broader anti-extremism push include clips of al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki that depicted him as giving a lecture on the history of Islam, with the video material being bereft of violent or hateful content, the report says. Nonetheless, the new policy excludes videos containing educational materials about terrorism as well as news clips tackling terrorist activities.