Should Google try to prevent terrorism?

Wired reports that “Rusty Shackleford,” the pseudonymous patron of The Jawa Report, a long-time monitor of online jihadists, is arguing that YouTube and its corporate parent, Google, should block clips advocating and taking credit for acts of terrorism before they can be seen.

“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, 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”, writes “Rusty Shackleford”.

But that other experts disagree. Ryan Calo, a fellow at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, isn’t sure he buys the argument:

“Are we trusting Google to be experts enough in jihadi propaganda to know what to take down?” Calo asks. Do we expect a communications company to be able to weigh a terrorist video’s potential value as a clue for law enforcement and intelligence agencies? “That seems like a really extraordinary difficult calculus to make. and in the absence of a definitive answer, let’s err on the side of free speech. On the side of neutrality of communications.”


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