When moms in Middle America let Little Johnny use YouTube in his room of an evening, do you think it ever occurs to them that Little Johnny is watching radical jihadi recruiting videos? When moms hear about jihadis using “social media” to radicalize new followers, do you think the moms think that means it’s coming into their house? Ah, but it is. Thanks to YouTubeistan–the digital library of jihadi videos readily available on YouTube, the jihad will be monetized. And which videos will be made available is apparently totally arbitrary, contradictory and trends toward making these videos available. They do draw millions of views, after all. Two days ago we spotted a YouTube video courtesy of the Long War Journal which evidently was taken down within hours of the MTP blog post. This is what I wrote:
According to Long War Journal: [T]he media wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Malahem Media Foundation, released the latest installment of its video series documenting the group’s attacks, called “From The Battlefield.” This most recent episode features footage of a double suicide attack on the Yemeni military’s First Military Command base in Hadramout and other smaller attacks in the province. So let’s be clear–I’m not suggesting that the content should be censored unless you think that there’s something wrong with giving material assistance to terrorists (that’s 18 U.S. Code §2339A and §2339B for those reading along).
This was the link:
As you see, YouTube took down that video. Why? “[B]ecause its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service.” We’ll come back to that presently. Not surprising–the video was posted by al Qaeda to inspire their followers and potential followers. It says “we are the strong horse, follow us.” It shows jihadis wiring up a car bomb to be used in a suicide bomber attack, among other things. Now what is interesting about this is that guess what video reappeared today on YouTubeistan?
This time it has links to many, many other videos that look to be of the same stripe. At least they’re not linking to big advertisers this time. Even in YouTubeistan they know which side the khubz is buttered. Here’s an interesting element of this particular video–when you turn on YouTube’s “Safety Mode” that is supposed to protect Little Johnny from watching such things, here’s the message you get: In other words, in YouTubeistan, Google decides to stop Little Johnny from watching the AQAP video unless he’s managed to find a way to disable Safety Mode. Then he can watch it to his heart’s content. It’s a minor inconvenience. ” Sorry about that.” In fact, there’s a YouTube video about how to disable Safety Mode that you can watch with Safety Mode enabled.
But wait–didn’t Google just tell us that the self-same video wasn’t available “because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service”? So on one day it violates YouTube’s terms of service, and on the next–literally–it’s OK to watch, just not if Safety Mode is enabled. Which is it?
The problem, of course, is that having once violated some provision of YouTube’s voluminous Terms of Service, YouTube appears to be applying the TOS consistently–except for one thing. Having made that decision once, why did YouTube have to make it twice?
So in YouTubeistan, jihadi videos are readily available, very often set to music in the “nasheed” genre, a kind of Arabic choral chant that is very popular with the jihadi set. Here’s an example:
Kingdom of Heaven is a popular source of footage for these fine examples of user generated content–who could have seen that coming, eh? Now remember, jihadis use social media platforms to disseminate their message. It’s pretty easy to find in YouTubeistan, and given that at least some of the time Google is putting the videos behind a screen if you’re viewing in the sainted Safety Mode, someone is exercising some editorial judgement about which videos they’re going to make available to the public and which videos that they’re going to put behind a screen. And apparently sometimes they decide to take down the videos. In the case of this particular jihadi recruiting video, it was removed from YouTubeistan, but not because it violated YouTube’s terms of service but for another reason: If you were someone who was concerned with protecting consumers, such as say Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, you might like to have some idea about why Google exercises its “constitutionally protected editorial judgment” that it claims to have in its pleadings attacking Hood’s investigation in Mississippi on behalf of Mississippi consumers and advertisers. Not only is Hood entitled to ask these questions on behalf of consumers, Google’s distribution of jihadi videos on Google’s monopoly video search platform certainly looks like material support of terrorists which is itself a violation of the federal law Google claims to hold so dear. (See 18 U.S. Code §2339A and §2339B aka the U.S. Patriot Act.) Whether you call this a Temporary Autonomous Zone, YouTubeistan or just plain old Google, I think it’s easy to understand why Hood would like an explanation from Google of exactly what is the thinking over there at the jirga in Mountain View? It can lead to questions like this in Hood’s subpoena of Google: