YouTube has removed thousands of videos recorded by the late American jihadist ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki, The New York Times reported. American jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki was one of Al Qaeda’s most prominent English-language ideologues. Six years after his death in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, he remains the “leading jihadist recruiter on the internet,” according to the Times.
Until recently, his lectures were available on YouTube. Now that has changed. YouTube has taken down thousands of hours of his talks in a landmark crackdown on radicalization.
The video giant has deployed video recognition software to recognize clips of Awlaki as soon as they are uploaded. Human moderators then delete them before they are viewed.
“It’s a watershed moment on the question of whether we’re going to allow the unchecked proliferation of cyberjihad,” Mark D. Wallace, the chief executive of the Counter Extremism Project, told the Times. “You just don’t want to make it easy for people to listen to a guy who wants to harm us.”
Anwar al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico to parents from Yemen. He became an Islamic preacher and scholar and gradually became convinced that the United States was waging a war against Islam and Muslims. Although many of his lectures focused on Islamic history and theology, large portions of them incited violence and support for terrorist organizations.
He was placed on the kill list in 2009 and killed in 2011 along with three companions while in Yemen.
The move is the first time a major tech company has specifically targeted the work of an individual radical in this way.
YouTube’s counter-terrorism policies have not just impacted terrorists however. In just one example, last year YouTube pulled a video by Counter Jihad, an organization which opposes Islamic extremism, citing its anti-hate speech policy.