Just one month after YouTube deleted a video of the United States air-dropping weapons to ISIS and claimed that it contained “violent or graphic content,” the video platform is now being criticized for implementing a new artificial intelligence program to monitor “extremist” content that is deleting videos that document U.S. war crimes.
The monitoring organization Airwars.org recently reported that its YouTube account had been targeted, just one week after YouTube published a new blog post announcing that it is "developing and implementing cutting-edge machine learning technology designed to help us identify and remove violent extremism and terrorism-related content in a scalable way."
Airwars raised the issue on Twitter, noting that after approving hundreds of their videos documenting U.S. airstrikes, YouTube has suddenly blocked three videos out of nowhere. The newly blocked videos showed U.S. coalition airstrikes that were reportedly targeting ISIS, and their dates ranged from August 2015 to March 2016.
Airwars later posted an update, which said that following the publicity around YouTube’s decision to block the videos, the platform had apparently chosen to remove the ban from the three videos, and it implemented an 18 years and over age restriction. “Adult-only war,” Airwars remarked, noting that “Archiving published Coalition videos creates permanent public record of conflict.”
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Chris Woods, the head of Airwars, told Middle East Eye that he is still in negotiations with YouTube over a number of videos, but he sees this trend as one that risks “severely undermining work done by Syrian opposition activists.”
"I think what’s so troubling about this if we look at the Syrian accounts, this is video chronicling a six or seven-year war, and some of the most important parts of that war from the perspective of Syrians," Woods said.
Middle East Eye also reported that it has had similar problems with YouTube after the platform removed a number of videos, “some of which were later given age restrictions, some of which remain removed.”
“YouTube told MEE in an email that the video ‘Drone footage by Islamic State shows suicide car attacks on Iraqi forces inside Mosul’ was removed and that YouTube had ‘assigned a Community Guidelines strike, or temporary penalty’ to MEE's account. The same occurred in the case of ‘Video appears to show Egyptian soldiers carrying out extra-judicial killings.’ MEE lodged an appeal with YouTube and received this response: ‘After further review of the content, we've determined that your video does violate our Community Guidelines and have upheld our original decision. We appreciate your understanding.’ Another video, documenting the destruction of Nimrud by IS, which is widely available across the internet, was removed from an MEE staff account, and all appeals were rejected.”
The report from Middle East Eye also claimed that Alexa O’Brien, an American journalist who covered the US prosecution of WikiLeaks’ whistleblower Chelsea Manning, reported on Twitter that the infamous videos released by Manning that showed the U.S. military blatantly committing war crimes were removed from YouTube. Her Twitter account is currently set to private.
As The Free Thought Project has reported, alternative geopolitical analyst “Partisan Girl” revealed that YouTube removed her video showing the U.S. airdropping weapons to ISIS in July, claiming it contained “violent of graphic content” that violated the platform’s community guidelines. “It documented US military airdrops falling into ISIS hands,” She wrote. “Truth is graphic content.”
As YouTube continues to remove videos that document both the events of the Syrian War, and evidence of the United State committing war crimes, it is important to remember that the platform still hosts thousands of videos with millions of views that are disguised as child-friendly content, while they actually promote violence, sex and pedophilia.