YouTube has updated its guidelines for acceptable content to ban videos that incite violence, a move that U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said is a direct response to his request last spring that videos sponsored by terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda be removed from the site.
YouTube had previously refused the request from Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, that it remove video content produced by terrorist organizations that showed assassinations, deaths of U.S. soldiers and civilians, weapons training and other material. Lieberman said such content is intended to "encourage violence against the West."
At the time, YouTube said that most of the videos Lieberman had highlighted did not violate their community standards.
Those caught violating the rules, the updated guidelines go on to note, may be permanently banned from YouTube. The video-sharing site also added tips and examples to explain its policies on hate speech, violence and other content.
While YouTube didn't explicitly mention terrorist videos or the pressure from Lieberman, the senator claimed that the move was taken in direct response to his earlier complaints.
"YouTube was being used by Islamist terrorist organisations to recruit and train followers via the Internet and to incite terrorist attacks around the world, including right here in the United States, and Google should be commended for recognizing that," Lieberman said in a statement. "I expect these stronger community guidelines to decrease the number of videos on YouTube produced by al-Qaeda and affiliated Islamist terrorist organizations."
Mike Masnick, president and CEO of IT research firm Techdirt, argued that trying to ban terrorists from posting videos to YouTube is shortsighted and won't work.
"Those videos will quickly pop back up on other sites that won't take them down. Second, most of those videos are preaching to the choir," he noted. "It's unlikely that very many people are being recruited to the terrorists' causes by a grainy video on YouTube."
He also noted that letting terrorists post their videos to mainstream sites like YouTube should help authorities figure out who's posting the videos and where they're coming from.
He went on to note that free speech is a key principle of the rights enjoyed by citizens in the U.S.
"Part of that principle is that it allows people to respond," he added. "So, yes, the videos may be pure propaganda, but there's no reason that people can't respond to the videos and show why they're propaganda and wrong. Confronting your critics is a reasonable stance. Demanding that they cannot speak is not."