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YouTube Allows Users to Flag Terrorism Videos

U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. CBS

YouTube has decided to let viewers decide.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that in addition to reasons like nudity, sexual activity and animal abuse, viewers can now flag a video for removal from the site for promoting terrorism.

Politicians have been pressuring YouTube and its parent company Google for years to take down videos which can serve as powerful recruitment tools encouraging jihad.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., told the Times that the new flagging option was a "good first step."

"But it shouldn't take a letter from Congress -- or in the worst possible case, a successful terrorist attack -- for YouTube to do the right thing," Lieberman said.

But George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen told the Times that the new category could be "potentially troubling" because it is more suggestive than previous YouTube language that forbids videos that incite viewers to commit violence.

The Times reports that YouTube removed hundreds of videos from American cleric Anwar al Awlaki, who is a founding member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and has been cited as inspiration for failed bombing suspects like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of trying to blow up a plane headed to Detroit on Christmas Day, Faisal Shahzad, who is accused of attempting to detonate a bomb in Times Square, and the Baltimore construction worker that is accused of trying to blow up a military recruiting station last week. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people at Ft. Hood, Texas, in November 2009, has also cited Awlaki as an influence.

Even with YouTube's removal, hundreds of Awlaki's videos can still be found on the site.

Given the large amount of content constantly uploaded to YouTube, executives have said it's impossible to prescreen the content, but that reviewers will screen content flagged by users.

Rosen told the Times that it is admirable YouTube is devoting resources to going through videos on a case-by-case basis.

"It is precisely the speech of those we hate that needs the most protection if free expression is going to flourish," he said.

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