YouTube Inconsistently Applying “Warning Labels” to Awlaki Material

Notorious “Battle of Hearts and Minds” lecture carries no warning label

(New York, NY) – After years of refusing to remove lectures by radical cleric and al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki, YouTube appears to have at least reluctantly acknowledged the radicalizing influence of Awlaki’s material.

YouTube’s parent company, Google, announced plans in June to affix warning labels on inflammatory videos that the company refused to remove. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) recently discovered one such warning label on an upload of Awlaki’s “Battle of Hearts and Minds” lecture, which lionizes and encourages terrorists and has been used by ISIS in its recruitment materials. Nevertheless, users can still view the video after clicking a button marked “I understand and wish to proceed.”

Furthermore, CEP’s analysis has found that YouTube is applying its new warning label policy inconsistently. For example, some versions of “Battle of Hearts and Minds” were affixed with the label, while others remain live and carry no warning at all. It is unclear why uploads of the same content are inconsistently marked as inflammatory. Given this fact, it is reasonable for policymakers and the general public to remain skeptical of YouTube’s promises to disrupt extremist content, especially when it does not carry out its stated policies consistently.  

For CEP’s complete analysis on YouTube’s warning labels, please click here.


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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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