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by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
terrrorism, videos

Companies:
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Dumb Question Of The Day: Should Google Try To Prevent Terrorism?

from the well,-of-course dept

I have to admit, I was pretty dumbfounded when I saw the title of this recent Wired blog post:
Should Google Try to Prevent Terrorism?
I mean, who's going to say no to that? Of course Google should try to prevent terrorism. Everyone should try to prevent terrorism if they can. So I was curious what the article was actually about if it would even bring that up... And it's not about Google preventing terrorism at all. It's about the misguided notion that Google should block any videos from those claiming to be part of terrorist groups, which is a totally different thing:
Jihadists have flocked to YouTube to spread their propaganda. One of those clips, released last week, appeared to take credit for the Times Square bombing attempt -- before Faisal Shahzad tried to ignite his SUV. The video may have been a vital clue for investigators. But does YouTube and its corporate parent, Google, have an obligation to block these videos before they're seen?

That's what one long-time monitor of online jihadists is arguing. "If a certain percentage of Islamist sympathizers are radicalized, in part, online, then it stands to reason that more eyeballs that are exposed to violent Islamist propaganda would eventually translate into more would-be terrorists," writes "Rusty Shackleford," the pseudonymous patron of The Jawa Report. "Which is why even though YouTube has been a boon in helping law enforcement agents detect, post hoc, would-be terrorists it has been a bane in that far more Muslims today can easily access violent Islamist propaganda."
Of course, this isn't even a new issue. Two years ago, Senator Joe Lieberman grandstanded on the issue, and eventually got YouTube/Google to agree to ban such videos if they "advertise" terrorism or "extremist causes."

The whole thing seemed ridiculous at the time. As the guy above even admits, these videos are helpful to law enforcement. The idea that people are becoming radicalized because they watch a YouTube video seems pretty unlikely in most cases anyway. These videos are preaching to the choir, not converting kids. Besides, blocking these videos only gives the folks behind them more of a martyr feeling about how people are trying to hold them down and don't want to hear what they're saying. The idea that blocking these videos is "preventing terrorism" seems quite unlikely. But using the videos to actually monitor terrorists and help law enforcement seems like a much more important and useful task.

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  1. identicon
    Bob, 10 May 2010 @ 10:11pm

    I'd have to disagree with Mike's answer to the question: "Should Google try to prevent terrorism?" for several reasons.

    1: Google is not an authorized law enforcement organization, nor are they trained or experienced in anti-terrorism tactics. It would be vigilante justice if a private company took it upon themselves to fight crime. That being said, if a duly authorized government agency went through proper channels to enlist the aid of Google, I'd say Google absolutely should help.

    2: It is simply unfeasible to know which videos are terrorist videos before they go up short of reviewing every single video before its posted. Considering how many videos are posted daily (I can't remember the exact number or the average length of the videos off the top of my head) I'd say its unreasonable to expect it.

    3: Philosophically speaking, Google (or anyone else for that matter) doesn't have a moral obligation to help anyone. Obviously, they have to follow laws but from a moral standpoint, they have no more obligation to help the US government (or terrorists) than you would have to help some random person on the street. Would be nice if you did but morally you are not obligated to.

    So basically they have no legal authorization or moral imperative to fight terrorism and monitoring every single video before its put up would be unfeasible. Not to mention there is no conclusive evidence that preventing radical videos from being posted would provide a net benefit on the war on terrorism.

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