Islamic Extremists Use YouTube's Automated Copyright Dispute Process To Access Critics' Personal Data

from the the-further-breaking-of-a-very-broken-system dept

YouTube’s infringement reporting system is — like many others around the web — fundamentally broken. Making bogus copyright claims is still an easy way to get channels shut down or to siphon ad revenue from existing videos. It can also be used as a censor — a cheap and dirty way to shut up critics or remove compromising video.

Apparently, Islamic extremists linked with Al-Qaeda have found another use for YouTube’s mostly automated dispute process: low-effort doxxing. According to German news sites, a YouTube channel (Al Hayat TV) known for its criticism of Islam has had to send its listed contact person into hiding after bogus copyright claims filed by extremists led to the exposure of his personal information.

On September 25th, someone using the name “First Crist, Copyright” filed bogus copyright complaints against Al Hayat TV. In order to prevent the channel from being shut down for multiple “strikes,” Al Hayat TV was forced to file a counter notification. But in order to do so, the channel operators had to expose sensitive information.

From the YouTube Help section on counter notifications:

After we receive your counter notification, we will forward it to the party who submitted the original claim of copyright infringement. Please note that when we forward the notice, it will include your personal information. By submitting a counter notification, you consent to having your information revealed in this way.

Some of the people behind the channel contacted YouTube and tried to explain the danger of releasing this personal information, especially considering a majority of its contributors operated anonymously for safety reasons. These pleas went unheeded, thanks to the automation of the copyright dispute process. Each request was greeted with pre-generated responses from YouTube support. Discussions with actual humans at YouTube only confirmed that the channel wouldn’t be reinstated without following the counter notice procedure — including handing over details on the channel’s contact person.

Unfortunately unaware of the fact that it could have used a legal representative to handle this, Al Hayat TV filed formal counter notices using one of its member’s names. Shortly thereafter, it received threats from the supposed copyright holder warning the contact person to “watch your head” (a phrase basically understood to be a death threat in Arabic) and promising to spread this info across several extremist websites. The message also told the contact person to [paraphrased slightly] enjoy living in fear under police protection. The contact person has since gone into hiding.

The quid pro quo of the copyright dispute process netted Al Hayat TV death threats and a completely bogus “First Crist, Copyright” contact person: Samuel George of 245 George Street in Sydney, Australia. Google Street View shows this address to be right in the middle of some prime downtown shopping.

At this point, it would be beyond tedious to rehash the problems with these automated enforcement systems. But this story shows the system can be easily exploited to satisfy very twisted ends. YouTube’s copyright dispute process is automated out of necessity. The fact that it instantly “sides” with the accuser contributes to the problem. Trying to sort out the legitimacy of copyright claims without chewing up thousands of man-hours would be a logistical nightmare and would quite possibly result in a system inferior to the irreversibly-broken one in place today. The unfortunate lesson to be drawn from this debacle is that those on the “inside” need to game the system as effectively as those on the “outside.” If YouTube’s going to treat copyright claims issued by “Crist” from the middle of the Establishment Bar in Sydney, Australia as wholly legitimate, Al Hayat TV should be shown the same disinterested “courtesy” and be allowed to issue a counter notices signed by an imaginary attorney residing at some random address. After all, if the dispute continues past this point, YouTube simply washes its hands of the entire situation and tells both parties to work it out themselves.

Copyright isn’t really the culprit here. It’s the systems that have been developed in response to rights holders’ complaints. They’re too easily gamed and little to nothing in the way of deterrents. Unfortunately, unlike incidents where copyright enforcement has been clumsily deployed as a censor, there’s no Streisand Effect equivalent for those who greet speech they don’t like with threats and violence. Extremists like this simply don’t care what others think of their irrational hatred and colossally stupid worldview.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , ,
Companies: google, youtube

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Islamic Extremists Use YouTube's Automated Copyright Dispute Process To Access Critics' Personal Data”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

“According to German news sites, a YouTube channel (Al Hayat TV) known for its criticism of Islam has had to send its listed contact person into hiding after bogus copyright claims filed by extremists led to the exposure of his personal information.”

Perhaps this will lead to the changes with regards to DMCA notices with the actual sender being held to account for filing a false DMCA notice but somehow no action will be taken to do so.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Use lawyers

Not free, but you can often get lawyers to send a letter on your behalf for relatively small one-off fees. Depending on the scope of work required to write such a letter, it could cost as little as $50.

Law offices often have form letters already drafted for common matters where they just have insert a few lines of relevant text and it’s done.

Maximilist Parody says:

Google Google Google IP Theft Stealing

This wouldn’t have happened if Google had only heeded intellectual property protectors’ requests and removed all intellectual property theft from the internet.
Now Google has blood on their hands and the only way to rectify this is with stricter copyright laws and penalties, starting with forcing Google to comply.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Good point. In fact, YT/Google could have spun this into a pretty decent PR moment, where once they became aware of the threat and danger, they could have said ‘You know what, never mind, we’ll accept the risk if this actually goes to court, so you don’t have to put your lives on the line by providing contact detail to a bunch of bloodthirsty morons’.

PR like that is something you can’t buy with any amount of money, and would have gotten them a whole lot of good press.

Instead, by once more being the monolithic, always silent wall that they’re so well known for, now they can add ‘tool of terrorist groups to silence dissent’ to their resume.

Anonymous Coward says:

One of the reasons I don’t particularly like Google has finally showed up with dire results. I don’t like a company I can not contact and speak with a real, live person, to resolve some issue. Google has to be one of the worst in this.

I’ve seen a lot of the web site owners get taking off of Ad Sense because someone coming to their site, used clicking on ads to trigger fake click traffic. There is no actual ability to contact anyone at Google for resolution. It’s the ultimate monolith.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I don’t like a company I can not contact and speak with a real, live person, to resolve some issue.

There are four options for publishing.
1) Go via a gatekeeper, that is a traditional publisher, label or studio. Only available if they decide your work is worth publishing.
2) Use a service like those Provided by Google, where their is no human support, and you have to accept and deal with the use of automated systems. You are guaranteed to be able to publish your work, but it may be taken down.
3) Join a co-operative that specializes in publishing your style of work, where you will have some support, but few people are likely to find your work.
4) Build your own website, where you have full control over content etc. This requires that you have an income to support the site, especially is you start to build an audience. The difficulty is finding your audience, but will work if you can also work the social media to sell yourself.

The last two options can be useful while developing your style, and building you expertise and base fan base, you can go on to some other form of publishing, Like Amazon etc. when your start to sell.

So for all its problems, Google, and YouTube have enables a large number of people to get their work published, and build up a fan base to where they can make a living from their work.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“This requires that you have an income to support the site, especially is you start to build an audience.”

If your site doesn’t get a huge volume of visitors, then the monetary cost of doing is really can be minimal. Hosting providers charge based on storage space and bandwidth rather than visitor counts, so it’s hard to make general estimates, but a lightly popular video site can be done for around $10/mo. Presumably, your income would grow with the site’s popularity, so you can scale up as that happens (and the cost per unit falls as the site gets more popular).

In short, it’s possible to get something going and ramp it up even if your whole income is from a minimum wage job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why wasn’t the Australian PM Tony “Liar, Liar, pants on fire” Abbott shouting about this “Death Cult” attack on an Australian citizen?

Let’s face it, he’s shouted out ‘FIRE in the cinema’ often enough over the past year to get the world’s worst anti-terrorist legislation passed recently with more on the way on far less serious matters. Maybe he will wait until the next bit of the OTT legislation needs to be passed before mentioning it, or maybe Rupert Murdoch hasn’t directed him to do so.

what does it matter says:

Hi Folks

This idiots : youtube do not get it
They splash in my face the latest Hollywood vomit – sorry interpretation of well fed pigs 🙂
I grew “under the communism” in Bulgaria – and it was a proud self sufficient country – now it is dump site for “western goods”. This is what Hollywood does not get – there are other feelings than the full stomach – hahaha – good luck in understanding 🙂

North Korea makes simply way way better weapons ( and many times cheaper ) , than any other country on earth and that is WHY – they are enemy 🙂

Jane Addams (user link) says:

This site is very Important and famous for Online Shopping Product.

Muslimzon gift shop | islamic Books shop| Online gift shop | EID & RAMADAN Cards, gifts
muslimzon Online Gift Shop provide Amazing gifts for Your Family and Friends and
a large range of stylish homeware from the online gift shop.
Children’s Books and Toys, Puzzles, Arabic & Quran Learning,
Novelties and Story Books and CD’s & DVD’s.
By Muslimzon Gift shop.
contact us:

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...