In response to pressure from the United Kingdom and New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner, YouTube has taken down hundreds of videos featuring al-Qaeda-linked Imam Anwar al-Awlaki this week.
Al-Awlaki, it will be remembered, was the cleric reportedly linked to the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, the Christmas Day bomber Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, and the attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.
The New York Times reports that YouTube spokeswoman Victoria Grand said that the videos violated the site’s policy regarding “‘dangerous or illegal activities such as bomb-making, hate speech, and incitement to commit violent acts,’ or came from accounts ‘registered by a member of a designated foreign terrorist organization,’ or used to promote such a group’s interests.”
“These are difficult issues,” Grand continued, “and material that is brought to our attention is reviewed carefully. We will continue to remove all content that incites violence according to our policies. Material of a purely religious nature will remain on the site.”
While YouTube appears to be working toward making the site a jihad-free zone, The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) says there remain thousands of videos calling for jihad on the site.
Steven Stalinsky, MEMRI executive director, reacted harshly to the reality that such videos continue to exist on the site.
“Since YouTube has chosen to leave such videos on its website, it can only be concluded that it considers violent jihad to be ‘material of a purely religious nature,'” he said.
The presence of jihadi propaganda has been an ongoing problem for the site. According to Stalinsky, since Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman called on Google to remove some 120 terrorist videos from YouTube a number of months ago, the problem has gotten “ten times as worse.”
“MEMRI has been monitoring terrorist use of YouTube, and in particular Anwar Al-Awlaki on YouTube, for the past year and a half,” Stalinsky additionally wrote in a press release. “During this time, MEMRI has briefed members of Congress on this issue, and has directly offered YouTube its assistance in identifying and removing videos that incite to violence and terrorism. YouTube has chosen not to respond to this offer.”
Despite the perceived failure to purge the site entirely of terrorist propaganda, MEMRI did commend YouTube for taking a first step.