In ‘watershed moment,’ YouTube blocks Anwar al-Awlaki videos

The New York Times reports: For eight years, the jihadist propaganda of Anwar al-Awlaki has helped shape a generation of American terrorists, including the Fort Hood gunman, the Boston Marathon bombers and the perpetrators of massacres in San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla.

And YouTube, the world’s most popular video site, has allowed hundreds of hours of Mr. Awlaki’s talks to be within easy reach of anyone with a phone or computer.

Now, under growing pressure from governments and counterterrorism advocates, YouTube has drastically reduced its video archive of Mr. Awlaki, an American cleric who remains the leading English-language jihadist recruiter on the internet six years after he was killed by a United States drone strike. Using video fingerprinting technology, YouTube now flags his videos automatically and human reviewers block most of them before anyone sees them, company officials say.

A search for “Anwar al-Awlaki” on YouTube this fall found more than 70,000 videos, including his life’s work, from his early years as a mainstream American imam to his later years with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Today the same search turns up just 18,600 videos, and the vast majority are news reports about his life and death, debates over the legality of his killing, refutations of his work by scholars or other material about him. A small number of clips of Mr. Awlaki speaking disappeared after The New York Times sent an inquiry about the change of policy last week. [Continue reading…]

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