YouTube has reportedly banned almost 70,000 videos depicting lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, an extremist jihadist who exhorted Muslims to kill Americans.
Google removed hundreds of al-Awalaki's videos in 2010 which directly advocated violence, following the conviction of Roshonara Choudhry, a radicalized follower who stabbed British MP Stephen Timms earlier that year. Using a "hash function" to fingerprint individual videos that flags and puts them before a team of human reviewers, YouTube can prevent the same videos from being uploaded over and over again. The officials told the Times that while their rules prohibit videos that incite terrorism, removing all of al Awlaki's videos is a special case.
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Awlaki was deemed a martyr by various Islamic extremists after he was killed in a drone strike ordered by the Obama administration in 2011.
The videos have long constituted a controversial collection on the site: In 2015, The New York Times published a story detailing Awlaki's online trove of videos, describing the cleric's lectures as carrying an even "greater authority today than when he was living". Most of the videos still in YouTube's archive of Awlaki are news reports about his life and death and debates over his killing and work, among other related material.
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YouTube's efforts to block Awlaki's online messages come as social media sites have come under scrutiny to go further to remove terrorist-connected accounts and jihadist content.
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