- REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
- YouTube has reportedly banned nearly 70,000 videos depicting lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, an extremist jihadist who exhorted Muslims to kill Americans.
- Despite his death in 2011, Awlaki’s teachings influenced a number of US terrorists, including the shooting at an Orlando nightclub in 2016.
According to The New York Times, YouTube has wiped its archives clean of Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric whose videos reportedly served as online grooming to a number of U.S. terrorists, including the shooter of the Orlando nightclub in 2016.
Despite his death in a US drone strike in 2011, Awlaki’s legacy lived on with more than 70,00o videos accessible on YouTube. Awlaki’s videos ranged from lectures on the teachings of the Quran to diatribes exhorting Muslims to kill Americans to speeches celebrating the actions of shooters like Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009.
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.”
YouTube’s efforts to clear Awlaki’s work are a part of its larger efforts to eradicate terrorism-related content from the site. Google’s general counsel Kent Walker explained the company’s methodology to remove this kind of content in an op-ed for The Financial Times in June.
According to the Times, YouTube now automatically flags Awlaki’s videos and human reviewers intermediate when an Awlaki lecture is uploaded to the site.
Now, fewer than 19,000 videos of Awlaki remain on the site, all of which are posted by third parties and are largely comprised of news reports and debates surrounding the legality of Awlaki’s death.
YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.