How Islamists Use YouTube to Intimidate Opponents

Under the guise of copyright infringement, radical groups have brought about the closure of an anti-Islamist station and forced YouTube to reveal the identities of those running it.

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Screenshot from Al Hayat TV YouTube channel. A group calling itself First Crist, Copyright demanded YouTube take videos down from the anti-Islamist channel for alleged copyright infringement.
Screenshot from Al Hayat TV YouTube channel. A group calling itself First Crist, Copyright demanded YouTube take videos down from the anti-Islamist channel for alleged copyright infringement.

Islamist supporters have exploited YouTube’s copyright policy to divulge the identities of — and threaten — those running an anti-Islamist television channel on the video-sharing website. As a result, YouTube has decided to change its copyright infringement complaint policies, the Germany daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported.

According to the German daily, Islamist extremists exploited the YouTube policies in their fight against the German-language version of Al Hayat TV. The channel, which is run in part by individuals who converted from Islam, has frequently criticized radical Islam. YouTube received a demand that video clips be removed from Al Hayat TV’s channel from an organization calling itself “First Crist [sic], Copyright.” The group claimed that the channel had infringed upon its intellectual property, according to the Frankfurt newspaper.

The policies of the video-sharing website, which is owned by Google, requires that material over which copyright infringement claims are lodged be removed from YouTube immediately without requiring proof of any infringement. Critics claim the policy leads to the hasty removal of material, sometimes for reasons that appear absurd. In one instance, a complainant claimed that a video featuring a baby violated intellectual property rights because content playing on a television in the background was copyright protected.

Under such circumstances, Google has given those running the YouTube channels the opportunity to respond, but it has required the targets of the complaints to disclose their identities, even with respect to YouTube channels whose owners are anonymous. In their contacts with YouTube, those running Al Hayat TV expressed concern that the party that filed the complaint against them, First Crist, Copyright, was using the procedure to force the disclosure of their identities. Indeed after they revealed their identities, they say they received a threatening message from First Crist, Copyright thanking them for their personal details, warning them to look out for themselves and suggesting that they get police to guard their homes.

YouTube told the German daily that it cannot intervene in the dispute if more than one party claims copyright ownership rights. The parties to the dispute, YouTube countered, have to resolve the dispute on their own. On Friday, Google announced that the owners of YouTube channels are not being required to disclose their own personal details and could provide contact details for their lawyers instead, the Associated Press reported. YouTube also changed the form that owners of channels on the video-sharing website fill out in response to requests for removal of video content, making it clear that the response can come from the owners’ lawyers rather than the owners of the channels themselves.

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