So I got a hit today on a Google Alert I have up that went to the New York Times. Holding my breath, because I didn’t harbor much hope that the piece would be balanced, I clicked the link and was transported to their site and an article titled “Radical Cleric Still Speaks on YouTube.” As Andrea would say “NO SH!T SHERLOCK!!” Ok, I’ll give them a couple points for trying, but seriously – President Obama has given the nod to taking Awlaki out whenever or wherever possible, but we can’t get him off YouTube – why? exactly? Because we want to protect his free speech rights? As Rusty said “I can drop a bomb on Osama bin Laden, I just can’t take away his microphone?” Hello people! The dude is a certified terrorist and gave up his rights to free speech when he chose to join the minions attempting to implement sharia law.
From the NY Times:
…members of Congress last year appealed to YouTube to remove calls for violence by Mr. Awlaki, the militant American-born cleric now hiding in Yemen, and in an announcement reported around the world last November, YouTube agreed.
End of story?
Not at all. A quick search of YouTube today for “Anwar al-Awlaki” finds hundreds of his videos, most of them scriptural commentary or clerical advice, but dozens that include calls for jihad or attacks on the United States.
I can just hear Andrea jumping up and down and screaming. She (along with undhimmi, the Jawa Report and others) has been documenting the games played by YouTube with the video numbers ad nauseum. ARGH!
The article goes on to cite quotes from YouTube about just how much video is uploaded and how impossible it is for them to police and the old standby “we rely on our community” blah blah blah to police the site. But here’s the rub:
The system has prevented YouTube from succumbing to the otherwise inevitable flood of pornography, which is directed to reviewers by software that scans uploaded videos for flesh tones. Computers also give priority to the review of videos with a high “flag-to-view ratio,” suggesting that many viewers are upset about it. Software bumps to a low priority videos that have previously been reviewed, as well as those flagged by users who have a record of, say, objecting to every Justin Bieber video.
So if I, as a user of YouTube’s services, object to every Awlaki video, or every video that features a coalition soldier being blown to smithereens, my flags are given a low priority by their software? How is that relying on their community? More like ignoring the segment of the community that actually takes the time to flag videos.
Additionally, this sounds like some pretty sophisticated software. Something that, I don’t know, intelligent should easily be written to, say, remove every video that has Awlaki associated with it. Hmmm…. interesting thought.
The variety and volume of Mr. Awlaki’s YouTube material makes it more difficult than might be supposed to decide its fate. Should his sermon on what makes a good marriage come down? His account of the final moments of the Prophet Muhammad? His counsel on the proper diet for a good Muslim?
Such material does not violate any YouTube standard.
What about the executive order that is supposed to prevent US interests from aiding and abetting terrorists in any way whatsoever, including by offering them services for free? Oh wait – I don’t suppose that’s the standard they’d like to discuss.
It may be that the crowdsourcing that drives YouTube, its reliance on the masses, becomes the ultimate answer to violent messages on the site, more than company censors. Anti-jihad activists with names like the YouTube Smackdown Corps patrol the site constantly, flagging what they consider to be offensive material.
At a site called Jihadi Smackdown of the Day (“Countering the cyber-jihad one video at a time”), the links for past YouTube videos of Mr. Awlaki now usually lead to a standard message: “This video has been removed as a violation of YouTube’s policy.”
But if the people who flag more often are given a lower priority, just how will that work? I think we’ve just been given a clue to what’s going on behind the wizard’s curtain, and, as I suspected, it’s about like confronting a couple of 7 year old Bart Simpsons over a broken lamp.
And while everyone’s pointing at everyone else, the environment remains ripe for the radicalization of yet another once-A-student-in-high-school-turned-Al-Shabab-wannabe. At what point is enough enough?