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YouTube heeds call to pull jihad videos

By New York Times
November 4, 2010

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NEW YORK — Under pressure from US and British officials, YouTube yesterday removed from its site some of the hundreds of videos featuring calls to jihad by Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born, Yemen-based cleric who has played an increasingly public role in inspiring violence directed at the West.

Last week, a British official pressed for the videos to be removed and a New York congressman, Anthony Weiner, sent YouTube a letter listing hundreds of videos featuring the cleric. The requests took on greater urgency after two powerful bombs hidden in air cargo planes were intercepted en route from Yemen to Chicago on Friday, with the prime suspect being the Yemen-based group with which Awlaki is affiliated, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In an e-mail, Victoria Grand, a YouTube spokeswoman, said that the site had removed videos that violated the site’s guidelines prohibiting “dangerous or illegal activities such as bomb-making, hate speech, and incitement to commit violent acts,’’ or came from accounts “registered by a member of a designated foreign terrorist organization,’’ or used to promote such a group’s interests.

Grand said that Google, YouTube’s owner, sought to balance freedom of expression with averting calls to violence.

Weiner said that YouTube gave him a “bureaucratic’’ response at first but seemed to take his request more seriously after the bombs were found. “It has become increasingly clear that this guy is an international terrorist that is using their service to do illegal things,’’ he said.

Britain’s concern over Awlaki and his group rose yesterday with two developments. A woman who had embraced his cause and watched his videos was sentenced to life in prison for the attempted murder in May of a prominent legislator, and a top official in the government of Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a member of the Yemeni Qaeda group had been arrested earlier in the year in a previously undisclosed bombing plot against the country.

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