For immediate release | Wednesday, August 22, 2018

CEP Analysis Finds YouTube Users 4x More Likely to Find Extremist Content Than Counter-Narrative Material

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Counter-Narrative Videos Found on YouTube Decreased Since April, Efficacy of Redirect Method Program Questioned

(New York, NY) – Extremist propaganda—including violent videos—is still readily accessible on Google-owned YouTube, far exceeding counter-narrative content and undermining company claims about its efforts to combat online extremism, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) concluded in its updated report, OK Google, Show Me Extremism: Analysis of YouTube’s Extremist Video Takedown Policy and Counter-Narrative Program.

Over a year ago, Google announced its Redirect Method Pilot Program, intended to direct individuals searching for ISIS-related content on YouTube to counter-narrative videos. Between August 2 and August 3, 2018, CEP reviewed 649 YouTube videos for extremist and counter-narrative content, based on searches for six terms related to Islamic extremism. CEP found a decrease in the number of counter-narrative videos on YouTube since its assessment in April, indicating that Google has not improved the performance of its Redirect Method Program and highlighting the persistent problem of terrorist content on the platform.

Key Findings:  

  • Of the 649 videos sampled by CEP, 36 videos (more than 5.5%) included extremist propaganda, glorification of extremism, or violent extremism.
  • Of the 36 videos found to have included extremist content, 18 videos were explicitly violent in nature and/or showed gore.
  • CEP found 9 videos (1.4% of the 649 videos checked) that may include counter-narrative messaging, meaning that a user searching for extremist material on YouTube was four times more likely to encounter extremist material than counter-narratives.

Google’s program to provide counter-narrative content on YouTube remains woefully insufficient, raising troubling questions about why the company promoted the Redirect Method Program in the first place. Rather than touting under-performing and ineffective counter-narrative programs, YouTube should concentrate on proven strategies, such as increasing its human content reviewing capabilities as well as applying existing technologies that can identify and permanently remove known extremist content.

To explore CEP’s report, OK Google, Show Me Extremism: Analysis of YouTube’s Extremist Video Takedown Policy and Counter-Narrative Program, please click here.