ICYMI: CEP Study Documents YouTube’s Failure to Effectively and Permanently Remove Extremist Content

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) conducted a study to better understand the prevalence of ISIS videos on YouTube. Using a web crawler and its own video-matching technology, eGLYPH, CEP searched for the presence on YouTube of a small sample of 229 previously identified ISIS-generated videos (just a fraction of the trove of extremist material available on the platform) over a three-month period. The results of the study call into question YouTube’s claims of being able to remove ISIS videos quickly and effectively.

Based on CEP’s narrow research parameters, the study—released on July 24—found that:

  • At least 1,348 ISIS videos were uploaded to YouTube, garnering more than 163,391 views.
  • 278 accounts uploaded all 1,348 videos.
  • 60% of accounts remained active even after videos had been removed for content violations.
  • 76% of the videos remained on YouTube for less than two hours, but still generated a total of 14,801 views.
  • 91% of the videos were uploaded more than once.

Clearly, YouTube’s process for identifying and removing terrorist content is failing, and the company is not fulfilling its promise to take action against accounts that repeatedly violate their terms of service.

Select Media Coverage:

Scientific American: Social Media's Stepped-Up Crackdown on Terrorists Still Falls Short
Online video has long been a crucial recruitment and propaganda tool for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Facing sharp criticism over the situation, these companies claimed last year to be stepping up efforts to use both human employees and artificially intelligent software to find and delete videos promoting violence. But the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) also notes terrorists are still finding a big audience on Google’s video-sharing network. “That’s a lot eyes on those videos,” says Hany Farid, a senior CEP adviser and the study’s lead researcher. “It’s discouraging that accounts caught posting terrorist material are allowed to continue uploading videos even after they’ve had their videos removed for violating YouTube’s terms of service,” says Farid, who is also a Dartmouth College computer science professor. “We know these videos are being created for propaganda purposes to incite and encourage violence, and I find those videos dangerous in a very real way.”

The Daily Mail: YouTube is still failing to take down jihadi propaganda: Video sharing site missing its target on removing IS films in one in four cases, study finds
YouTube repeatedly fails to remove jihadist videos within two hours of them being posted because of 'staggering' holes in its monitoring, according to a study. It found that the Google-owned video sharing site missed its target for taking down Islamic State films in one in four cases. Dozens of terrorist propaganda and recruitment videos were left up for more than three days at a time, clocking up tens of thousands of views, according to the three-month study by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP). But in the first in-depth independent study of IS videos on YouTube, the CEP found this was not happening because of 'inexcusable' holes in the service's monitoring system. Computer scientist Dr Hany Farid, from Dartmouth College in the US, who developed a system that stops known child abuse films being uploaded, created a similar program that instantly identifies and removes terror videos.

The Sun: YouTube lets extremists post hundreds of jihadist videos online
YOUTUBE allows extremists to spread jihadist propaganda online by exploiting holes in the website's filters, it emerged today. The site has a two-hour target for taking down terror content - but it misses that target in a quarter of all cases, a report reveals. Extremist videos end up getting more than 12,000 views a week, allowing the jihadist message to spread across the world. Among the clips which have been freely uploaded to YouTube is a bomb-making video used by the Manchester Arena attacker. Ex-minister Mark Simmonds told the Daily Mail: "This study dispels any lingering myth that YouTube are doing enough to stop their site being used as an IS recruitment tool. "The research shows that YouTube are not even meeting their own promise to delete all extremist content within two hours."

The Arab Weekly: Fighting illicit content online
A report by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) casts doubt on YouTube’s proclaimed ability to expeditiously remove propaganda videos by the barbaric extremist group called the Islamic State (ISIS). CEP Executive Director David Ibsen said it was alarming that “despite big tech’s promises of combating online extremism and terrorism, noxious, previously prohibited content continues to persist across all major platforms.” Ibsen notes that ISIS videos were uploaded 163,000 times in the past three months. “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.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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