YouTube deletes thousands of Anwar al-Awlaki videos in “extremism” clampdown

Yemeni-AmericanMuslim preacher Anwar al-Awlaki

YouTube has removed nearly 50,000 videos featuring controversial American preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

Tens of thousands of Anwar al-Awlaki videos were uploaded to the site, all of which were removed by owners Google in the first action of its kind by the online giant.

This is the first time an individual has been subject to such action and was in response to videos endorsing violence.

A U.S. drone strike killed al-Awlaki in Yemen six years ago after he was suspected of being a senior figure in Al-Qaeda.

But his speeches remained online, and are believed to have influences a number of lone-wolf attackers who attempted or successfully carried out attacks in the U.S. and Britain.

YouTube has long faced calls to clamp down on al-Awlaki’s online videos.

By 2011, it had implemented its policy of removing hate speech and incitement to commit violent acts, removing a few hundred Awlaki videos in the process.

But it allowed the bulk of his content to remain accessible, arguing at the time it would “continue to remove all content that incites violence according to our policies. Material of a purely religious nature will remain on the site.”

Awlaki’s killing in 2011 was controversial because he was the first American citizen to be “legally” assassinated in the post-9/11 era.

He and another American citizen, Samir Khan, the editor of Al-Qaeda’s online magazine, were attacked with a U.S. drone. The U.S. later justified the killing as “self defence”.

Two weeks later, al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki – a U.S. citizen – was also killed by a CIA-led drone strike in Yemen.

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