For immediate release | Tuesday, July 24, 2018

CEP Report: YouTube’s Ongoing Failure to Remove ISIS Content

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91 percent of known ISIS propaganda uploaded more than once; 60 percent of accounts uploading terror content remained live after videos were removed for violating YouTube’s terms

New York, NY – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today released a new study that finds YouTube’s efforts to proactively remove extremist content from its platform are failing. The report, which utilized an online web crawler and its own hashing technology - eGLYPH - calls into question YouTube’s claims of being able to remove ISIS videos quickly and effectively. Using a narrow set of 229 previously-identified ISIS terror-related videos, CEP found that over a three-month period no less than 1,348 videos were uploaded via 278 separate accounts, garnering at least 163,000 views. 

Specifically, CEP found that 91 percent of these ISIS videos were uploaded more than once; 24 percent of terrorist videos included in the study remained online for more than two hours; and 60 percent of the 278 accounts responsible for uploading the videos remained active after posting content that violated YouTube’s terms of service. Moreover, 76 percent of these ISIS videos remained on YouTube for less than two hours but managed to receive a total of at least 14,801 views.

“The number of ISIS propaganda videos being re-uploaded on YouTube after having been taken down, the length of time they stay online, and the number of views each received shows that there is a systemic failure with the processes in place to eliminate them,” said Dr. Hany Farid, CEP senior advisor and co-author of the white paper. “There is both a technological and human component necessary for stopping the proliferation of extremism content online. When those elements are deployed together, a substantial impact can be achieved. It’s clear that YouTube is failing on both fronts.”

The report examined how often ISIS terror-related videos are being uploaded to YouTube, how long the material persists online and how many views each video received. To achieve this, CEP utilized two computer programs: a web crawler and eGLYPH. The web crawler allowed searches of video titles and descriptions for pro-ISIS keywords in videos, while eGLYPH identified duplicated content. 

“The white paper’s findings are alarming,” said CEP Executive Director David Ibsen. “We knew that despite big tech’s promises of combatting online extremism and terrorism, noxious, previously prohibited content continues to persist across all major platforms. Our study shows that despite Google and YouTube’s claims trumpeting their progress, at least 163,000 times in three months, someone was exposed to ISIS videos. That should be a wake-up call to lawmakers around the world that terror-inciting content remains pervasive and that these companies must do more to remove it once and for all.”

In June 2016, CEP unveiled a response to the weaponization of the Internet and social media platforms by ISIS and other extremist groups. In partnership with Dr. Farid, the world’s foremost authority on “hashing” technology, CEP announced eGLYPH. The software is capable of detecting and efficiently and permanently removing extremist images, videos, and audio messages that have been pre-determined to violate the terms of service of Internet and social media companies.  

To view the full white paper, please click here.