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Updated YouTube rules will help purge terrorist videos, says Sen. Lieberman

Google unit bans videos that may incite violence after senator calls for removal of terrorist-made content

By Heather Havenstein
September 15, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - YouTube Inc. has updated its guidelines for acceptable content to ban videos that could incite violence, a move that Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said is a direct response to his request last spring that videos sponsored by terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda be removed from the site.

YouTube had previously turned down the request from Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, that it remove video content produced by terrorist organizations that showed assassinations, the deaths of U.S. soldiers and civilians, weapons training and other material. Lieberman said such content is intended to "encourage violence against the West."

At the time, YouTube said that most of the videos Lieberman had highlighted did not violate its community standards.

The updated YouTube Community Guidelines, posted last week, note that things "like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people's personal information and inciting others to commit violent acts or to violate the terms of use are taken very seriously."

Those caught violating the rules, the updated guidelines go on to note, may be permanently banned from YouTube. The video-sharing site also added tips and examples to explain its policies on hate speech, violence and other content.

While YouTube didn't explicitly mention terrorist videos or the pressure from Lieberman, the senator claimed that the move was taken in direct response to his earlier complaints.

"YouTube was being used by Islamist terrorist organizations to recruit and train followers via the Internet and to incite terrorist attacks around the world, including right here in the United States, and Google should be commended for recognizing that," Lieberman said in a statement. "I expect these stronger community guidelines to decrease the number of videos on YouTube produced by al-Qaeda and affiliated Islamist terrorist organizations."

Lieberman went on to call on YouTube parent Google Inc. to remove all the videos created by terrorist organizations, not just those that violate the community guidelines.

Mark Hopkins, a blogger at Mashable noted that "the only thing that seems to influence Google to do the right thing in the past has been a combination of media and government pressure" and that companies such as YouTube that operate "large megaphones" to broadcast any group's message to millions of people need to prevent their tools from being abused by putting into place community and algorithmic controls.

"The pen is mightier than the sword, and the digital pen, as it were, is the most important tool we have these days," Hopkins added. "If we want to keep it safe from the grubby paws of governmental intervention, companies like Google must implement and enforce standards of policing the community. Otherwise, the government will do that for us, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we do not want that."

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