Despite PR Push in Advance of EU Internet Forum Meeting, Google’s YouTube Continues to Feature Extremist Content
(New York) – Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi reportedly watched bomb-making videos on Google-owned YouTube, according to a June 24 report in The Times.
This revelation once again demonstrates the consequences of tech companies’ failure to address the prevalence of extremist and terrorist content online. It is also concerning that Google’s recently announced policy changes do not specifically explain how content of this type, i.e. content with proven connections to terrorist actors and incidents, will be quickly detected and removed.
In a June 18 blog post, Google promised to address terrorist and extremist videos on its platforms—in particular YouTube. However, as explained in a detailed analysis by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), the blog post lacks a detailed explanation of how Google plans to remove known non-violent extremist and terrorist content with clear links to terrorists and terror attacks from its platforms, such as the type that Abedi reportedly watched on YouTube. For example, does Google/YouTube not proactively search for this material, which it claims violates its terms of service? If not, why? Does Google/YouTube similarly not actively search for removal of other content that violates it terms of service (e.g. pornography and copyright infringing material)?
On May 22, 2017, Salman Abedi detonated his bomb outside the Manchester Arena where U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande had been performing, killing at least 22 people, including children, and wounding 59 more. The bombing was the deadliest terror attack in the United Kingdom in more than 10 years.
Google’s policy announcement comes at a time when tech companies are under increasing scrutiny from governments concerned by the weaponization of the Internet by terrorists. Their corporate public relations efforts are also taking place in anticipation of the June 27 EU Internet Forum meeting, where tech companies are expected to update the EU Commission on the status of the promises they made last year to remove extremist content and hate speech from their platforms.