WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman says Google Inc. is not thorough enough in removing YouTube videos that he says are used by al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations to spread propaganda and recruit followers.
Lieberman, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote to Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt on May 19 to complain that YouTube was not enforcing its own guidelines against showing graphic and gratuitous violence.
YouTube Videos produced by al-Qaida "show attacks on U.S. forces in which American soldiers are injured and, in some cases, killed," Lieberman's letter said.
A Google spokesman said the company had removed about 80 videos that violated YouTube's restrictions on gratuitous violence and hate speech after discussions with the senator's staff last week. The spokesman said it was difficult to prescreen the hundreds of thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube every day. Instead, the site relies on users to police objectionable material — simply by pressing a "Flag" button located under a video — which is then reviewed by the company.
"There's nothing in our guidelines that says something produced by a certain group gets censored," said the spokesman (whom the Associated Press did not identify).
Lieberman's committee recently released a report that said the United States must develop a communications plan to counter radical Islamic messages on the Internet used to recruit new followers, provide weapons training, show speeches by terrorist leaders and for other purposes. The report said such messages could create "homegrown terrorists."
Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said YouTube searches returned dozens of videos branded with an icon or logo of al-Qaida or its allied groups. He added that YouTube could easily remove the videos since they are branded. He also asked in his letter to Google what changes it plans to make in its guidelines to address "violent extremist material" and how it will enforce them to prevent such content from reappearing.