For immediate release | Wednesday, November 1, 2017

CEP Applauds Rep. Michael McCaul for Demanding Tech Companies Remove Radicalizing Content

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Media at CEP

(New York, NY) – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today applauded Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, for insisting that tech companies do more to remove the kind of radicalizing propaganda apparently utilized by Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, the perpetrator of the New York City truck attack that killed eight people.

Speaking about the terror threat to the United States this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, McCaul said: “I think the greater threat is what NYPD calls flash to bang, where you have somebody like this guy who within a matter of months goes from a flash to a bang in New York City. And so that’s the more difficult challenge to stop. A lot of soft targets both in New York and the Capitol right behind me, and how do you stop a vehicle attack or an IED or a drone attack, or any of these myriad of options that they have as they spread their propaganda over the Internet? Quite frankly, I think the technology companies have a moral responsibility to take down this jihadist material like sermons of Awlaki, and others off of the Internet because that is their power. Bin Laden didn’t use the Internet, ISIS, they do. They’re a new generation of terrorist.  And I think we need to start looking at the Internet and taking their power away from them.” 

Unfortunately, such propaganda material remains all too available online. For example, CEP located a 26-second video clip from a longer ISIS video—which instructs supporters on how to carry out a vehicular attack—on the Internet Archive the same day the truck-ramming incident occurred in downtown New York City. 

“What occurred in New York City is but another example of someone being radicalized by content that is ubiquitous and readily accessible online and the American public bearing the cost,” said CEP CEO Ambassador Mark Wallace. “New York City police officials said that this individual was planning an attack for a number of weeks and followed ISIS instructions ‘to a T.’ It is past time when tech companies take the threat from terrorist content seriously and respond in an effective and transparent way to the clear abuse of their platforms.”

For several years, CEP has conducted a campaign to pressure Google-owned YouTube to remove radicalizing sermons and lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki and other radical clerics that included letters, op-eds in USA Today and Fox News, and a series of reports detailing Anwar al-Awlaki’s influence on U.S. and European terrorists and his leadership role in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike on September 30, 2011. In announcing his death, President Barack Obama said Awlaki “took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans.” U.S. and European extremists influenced by Awlaki include Orlando gunman Omar Mateen; Charlie Hebdo attacker Cherif Kouachi; San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook; and Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.