September 11, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 883

Testing YouTube's 'Promotes Terrorism' Flagging Feature For Videos Of Osama Bin Laden, 9/11, Al-Qaeda – The Results: 58 Of 100 Remain Active

September 11, 2012 | By Steven Stalinsky, Elliot Zweig, and O. Adaki*
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 883


In the past three years, as part of the MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) Project, we determined that YouTube has emerged as the leading U.S. website for online jihad. It has replaced – and surpassed – websites administered by jihadists themselves, which were previously their venue of choice.

MEMRI has briefed members of the U.S. government and Congress on this issue, and has also directly offered its assistance to YouTube in identifying videos that incite violence and terrorist acts for possible removal.

Launched Just Today, September 11, 2012 – YouTube Channel Featuring Senior AQAP Cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Rubaish

On September 11, 2012, "zanoon elslfi," a member of the leading jihadi forum Al-Fida', posted on the forum an announcement of the launch of a YouTube channel, titled "IbrahimRbichy" and featuring speeches and lectures by Saudi Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Rubaish, a former Guantanamo prisoner and a senior Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) cleric.

The post, titled "The Raid of Revenge for Jihadi Clerics," noted that the channel was dedicated to the 19 9/11 hijackers, to the "lions" imprisoned in Arab and other tyrants' prisons, to the free men sacrificing their blood in the Levant, and to all jihadi clerics and leaders wherever they may be – especially Sheikhs Ibrahim Al-Rubaish and Abu Yahya Al-Libi. As of this writing, the page has 17 videos, three subscribers, and 96 video views.[1]

Thousands Of Videos Of Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and 9/11 Can Easily Be Viewed On YouTube – Even After Addition Of New Flagging System

As MEMRI research previously highlighted, thousands of videos, including by the Al-Qaeda media company Al-Sahab – among them videos celebrating and planning the attacks of September 11, 2001 – are added to YouTube regularly.

Below are five examples highlighted by MEMRI in a 2010 report; as of September 10, 2012, despite YouTube's addition two years ago of a new system to specifically flag videos for promoting terrorism, three of these videos were still active:

Bin Laden speaking and showing Al-Qaeda training video for 9/11

Al-Qaeda training video for 9/11

Bin Laden talking to 9/11 hijackers in Afghanistan, interspersed with segments of training vide

9/11 hijacker Abdulaziz Al-Omari hijacker delivering his last will and testament prior to operation[5]

9/11 hijacker Ahmed Al-Ghamdi delivering his last will and testament prior to operation[6]

In 2010, YouTube Adds New "Promotes Terrorism" Flagging Feature For Videos

As previous MEMRI reports have highlighted, in November 2010, YouTube quietly took a first step to address the issue, with an additional "flagging" feature for all videos on its website. According to a November 18, 2010 report in The Telegraph, it also added extra staff to "tackle Al-Qaeda hate videos." The report stated that Google chief executive Eric Schmidt "said that the company was 'adding people to do reviews of videos,' as it is very hard algorithmically to monitor inappropriate comments. Talking to a small group of journalists at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, [he said that] it was 'impossible to monitor 100 per cent of the content the site receives, which is why YouTube has to rely upon a mixture of algorithm-driven detection and its community to report inappropriate content."

Prior to the addition of the new flagging system, YouTube users could flag videos as inappropriate for reasons such as sexual content or copyright infringement; the new system enabled users to specifically flag videos for promoting terrorism.

Steps to Flag YouTube Videos For Terrorist Content

Step one – Click the "Flag This Video" button to report the video

Step two – Select the reason for flagging the video

Step three – Select the subcategory behind the flag – note new "promotes terrorism" category

Step four – Click "send" and the video is flagged for YouTube's review and removal

Testing YouTube's 'Promotes Terrorism' Flagging Feature For Videos Of Osama Bin Laden, 9/11, Al-Qaeda – The Results: 58 Of 100 Remain Active

The following report looks at 100 YouTube videos of the 9/11 hijackers, Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and Al-Qaeda, as well as 9/11 training videos and videos of Al-Qaeda's celebrations following the attack. Each of these was flagged as "promotes terrorism" on September 4, 2012, in advance of the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

Of the 100 videos flagged, only 42 have been removed; the remaining 58 remain active. Reasons given for the removals were: "due to repeated or severe violations of our Community Guidelines"; "as a violation of YouTube's policy on shocking and disgusting content"; "because its content violated YouTube's Terms of Service"; and "This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated."



*Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of MEMRI, E. Zweig and O. Adaki are Research Fellows at MEMRI.


[2]Posted on Sept 22, 2009 by "milanraoh,"

[3]Posted on Oct 29, 2009 by "fabudujana,"

[4] Posted on Sept 9, 2010 by "alemarahmedia," -

[5]Posted on Nov 8, 2009 by "sbandat90,"

[6]Posted on Sept 20, 2008 by "sbandat90,"

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