Senator Asks Google to Can Videos

Homeland Security chairman says Google is violating its own standards.

Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman called on Google May 19 to immediately remove videos produced by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. Readily available on Google's YouTube, the videos show assassinations, deaths of U.S. soldiers and civilians, weapons training and incendiary speeches by al-Qaeda leadership.

In a letter to Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, Lieberman said the videos could be easily identified since most carry al-Qaeda logos. Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, urged Google to enforce its own community standards against videos that show gratuitous violence or people getting "hurt, attacked or humiliated."

A Google spokesman told eWEEK that Lieberman's staff contacted Google last week about the issue. In response, Google removed more than 80 videos violating the company's policy against violent videos and hate speech. However, the spokesman noted, YouTube users upload 10 hours of video every hour, 24 hours a day.

"There are just so many videos we can't prescreen," the spokesman said. The spokesman said it is up to YouTube users to flag objectionable material. Once the YouTube community flags material, YouTube staff determines if the videos meet meet YouTube standards.

"Islamist terrorist organizations use YouTube to disseminate their propaganda, enlist followers and provide weapons training," Lieberman said in the letter. "YouTube also, unwittingly, permits Islamist terrorist groups to maintain an active, pervasive and amplified voice, despite military setbacks or successful operations by the law enforcement and intelligence communities."

If Video Shows Someone Getting Hurt, Attacked or Humiliated, Don't Post

According to a report just issued by Lieberman's committee, Islamist terrorist organizations rely extensively on the Internet to attract supporters. The report details how al-Qaeda operates a multitiered online media operation that plays a "significant role in the process of radicalization, the end point of which is the planning and execution of a terrorist attack."

In the letter to Schmidt, Lieberman notes that Google posts community guidelines for the posting of videos that state, "[g]raphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don't post it."

In addition to requesting Google pull the videos, Lieberman also asked Schmidt to explain what measures Google plans to make in the future to address violent extremist material.

"Protecting our citizens from terrorist attacks is a top priority for our government," Lieberman wrote. "The private sector can help us do that. By taking action to curtail the use of YouTube to disseminate the goals and methods of those who wish to kill innocent civilians, Google will make a singularly important contribution to this important national effort."

But in a YouTube blog post May 19, Google said it had no plans to remove all videos mentioning or featuring terrorist groups, particularly nonviolent postings.

"Senator Lieberman stated his belief ... that all videos mentioning or featuring these groups should be removed from YouTube-even legal nonviolent or nonhate speech videos," the blog post states. "While we respect and understand his views, YouTube encourages free speech and defends everyone's right to express unpopular points of view."