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YouTube defends policies in wake of complaint over al-Awlaki videos

By the CNN Wire Staff
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YouTube asked to pull militant videos
  • NEW: Search indicates that YouTube has deleted several Anwar al-Awlaki videos
  • YouTube defends procedures for removing videos inciting violence
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner wrote a letter to YouTube CEO Chad Hurley on Sunday
  • He asked that all videos of al-Awlaki, who is linked to al Qaeda in Yemen, be deleted

(CNN) -- YouTube on Monday defended its procedures for monitoring and removing videos that violate its policies, in response to a congressman's request that the website remove all videos featuring Anwar Al-Awlaki, the man he describes as the "bin-Laden of the Internet."

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, made the request on Sunday, one day after the online appearance of a new al-Awlaki video. The Yemeni-American cleric and militant has been linked to al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen, where he is believed to be in hiding.

In a letter to Chad Hurley, YouTube's chief executive, Weiner wrote that hundreds of al-Awlaki videos are available on YouTube, with a combined total of more than 3.5 million views.

"A known terrorist named Anwar al-Awlaki, dubbed the 'bin-Laden of the Internet,' has been using YouTube to promote his extremist ideology and recruit a new generation of terrorists," Weiner wrote. "I am asking that you remove all videos featuring Anwar al-Awlaki from your website and set up safeguards to prevent future videos from being posted."

In a statement e-mailed to CNN on Monday, YouTube said its community guidelines "prohibit videos that promote dangerous or illegal activities (including bomb-making, sniper attacks, or other terrorist acts), contain hate speech, and videos that are posted with the purpose of inciting others to commit specific, serious acts of violence. In addition, we remove all videos and terminate any account known to be registered by a member of a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and used in an official capacity to further the interests of the FTO. We review all videos brought to our attention through community flagging 7 days a week, and routinely remove content that violates our policies, usually in under an hour."

A CNN search showed that several videos featuring Al-Awlaki had been removed from the site, with messages saying that the removals were due to violations of YouTube's "policy of depiction of harmful activities" or "Community Guidelines."

U.S. officials say al-Awlaki helped recruit Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines trans-Atlantic flight as it landed in Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day.

Al-Awlaki is also said to have exchanged e-mails with Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009.

U.S. officials have confirmed that Al-Awlaki is on a CIA and military hit list to be captured or killed.