YouTube Bans Terror Training Videos

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By Nick DeMarco
Staff Writer

In an article posted by the Associated Press, it was reported that YouTube, a popular video sharing site, has moved to purge terrorist training films and other videos that extremist groups might use to attract new members.YouTube, as of press time, is using an imperfect process that relies on users to report objectionable videos. This is a bit like post-9/11 America–if you see something, say something. The thing is, it’s nearly impossible to view every video when 13 hours of new video are uploaded every few minutes.

One day, after the new policies were posted, it turned up several videos on how to make bombs using, for instance, household items such as toilet bowl cleaner and tin foil. In addition to barring terror training videos, the new YouTube community guidelines include bans on videos that incite others to commit violent acts, video on activities such as how to make bombs and footage of sniper attacks. Previously, there were policies in place against showing people “getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated,” banning even clips allowable for even TV news shows.

Supporters of this policy change, like FBI spokesman Richard Kolko, hope it will blunt Al-Qaida’s strong media online campaign. “It’s good news if there are less of these on the Web,” said Kolko, “but many of these videos appear on different Web sites around the world, and any time there is investigative or intelligence value, we actively pursue it.”

Researchers have found terror training videos posted online in both English and Arabic. “Videos of varying sophistication appear to show how to slit someone’s throat or make suicide vests,” said Bruce Hoffman, a counter terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University. Others are violent anti-American speeches or montages of militants appearing to attack U.S. forces.

While backers of this change are vocal, so are those who feel it won’t do anything. “It’s going to do nothing to take these videos off the Internet,” said John Morris, an Internet free speech expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “This change isn’t going to make this any different.”

I conducted a telephone interview with Valerie Burch, a member of the Harrisburg ACLU in regards to whether or not this ban is violating a law of civil rights. “YouTube is a private company that is free to ban whatever they want. While you still face certain laws putting a poster up in a park, they are not as severe as what is being done online. These videos constitute public threats and incites imminent lawless action, so it’s not protected by the First Amendment. The question that should be asked is should the FBI be allowed to assess these videos?”

When I thought about this situation, the first thing that popped into my head was the fact my niece, who is 10 years old, is a frequent visitor to YouTube, and while I know she isn’t searching for terrorist training videos, videos may still be sneaking in under YouTube’s prohibitive guidelines. I really worry that my niece or anyone who isn’t old enough to understand the severity of the situation can stumble upon these videos. I do feel the FBI should be allowed access to these videos, because if they’re not protected by any amendment rights, then they are criminal acts, nothing more.

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