For immediate release | Friday, March 24, 2017

Advertiser Revolt Underscores Need for Google to Address Ubiquity of Extremist Content on YouTube

Press Contact:

Media at CEP

AQAP Spokesperson Anwar Al-Awlaki Persists Online Even as New AQAP Threat to Commercial Airliners Emerges

(New York, NY)The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) said today that Google must not only change its policy of placing advertising next to extremist content, but must immediately terminate the ubiquitous, hate-filled videos of deceased Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) spokesman Anwar al-Awlaki from YouTube.

Google has promised to revamp its policies in response to American and European companies pulling advertisements after discovering that the ads were appearing next to extremist videos on YouTube. Google’s inability to remove such extremist content has enabled Awlaki, a radical cleric, propagandist, and operative for AQAP killed by a drone strike in 2011, to continue to encourage attacks against the West.

The so-called “laptop ban,” announced recently, is a direct result of the development by AQAP bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri, with support from Awlaki, of small explosive devices capable of destroying commercial airplanes. In 2009, Awlaki trained and equipped Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253 approaching Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 using explosives hidden in his underwear. Awlaki also directed the failed attempt to blow up U.S. cargo planes in 2010.

It is not enough for Google to adopt new policies and controls that help advertisers alone. AQAP is actively seeking to find ways to murder innocent civilians worldwide. It is therefore unacceptable for AQAP content and that of its leadership like Anwar al-Awlaki to be readily available on YouTube.

CEP has counted 89 extremists—55 U.S. extremists and 34 European extremists—with ties to Anwar al-Awlaki, including Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in Orlando; Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino; Ohio State car attacker Abdul Razak Ali Artan; Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan; Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad; Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev; and many others.  Yet Awlaki videos continue to proliferate on YouTube, increasing from 61,900 in December 2015, to 71,400 in February 2017.

To explore the CEP report, Anwar al-Awlaki: Tracking Google’s Counter-Narrative Program, please click here.

To explore the CEP report on AQAP, please click here.

To explore the CEP report on AQAP bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri, please click here.  

To explore the CEP report on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, please click here.