Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

YouTube Blocks Israeli Hamas Assassination Video — And Puts It Back Up Again

Israel has gone to war with Hamas in Gaza, and it is using the Internet as a weapon, employing services like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr on its behalf.

The idea is familiar to anyone who has a message to push in 2012: Instead of relying on middlemen like the press to convey your story, you can go over their heads, and right to your target audience.

But Internet services themselves are still middlemen, with the ability to block content if they want or need to.

Google, for example, has yanked a video posted by the Israeli military yesterday, which apparently recorded a “pinpoint strike” which killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari in his car.

A message on the world’s largest video site says the clip has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service. “Sorry about that.”*

Update: That was a mistake, YouTube now says. Here’s a comment from a company spokeswoman, via email: “With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”

What that means in real world terms, according to someone who knows how YouTube’s takedown system works: At some point yesterday, YouTube users “flagged” the video, which triggered a review process, and at some point early this morning, someone at YouTube made the call to take it down. Later on, someone else decided to put it back up.

I don’t know how long the video was off the site, but it was at least three hours, because that’s how long it took me to get the post up after first noticing the clip was gone.


I’ve asked YouTube executives to elaborate. They usually don’t talk about specific takedowns on the record, but I’m hopeful they will in this case, since assassination videos published by military spokespeople are a new YouTube use case.

The company did go into a bit more detail when it blocked an anti-Islam video in Egypt, Libya and other countries in September.

In the meantime, you can peruse the YouTube TOS yourself, and will likely want to pay attention to the part on “community guidelines,” which ban “graphic or gratuitous violence.”  A “tips” primer goes into a bit more detail:

“Don’t post videos showing bad stuff like animal abuse, drug abuse, under-age drinking and smoking, or bomb making. Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone being physically hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don’t post it. YouTube is not a shock site. Don’t post gross-out videos of accidents, dead bodies or similar things intended to shock or disgust.”

And if you want to see the aftereffects of Israel’s strike, YouTube is okay with that, via this AP clip:

*Meanwhile, the Twitter messages Israel initially used to promote the video have been altered, and a new video has been inserted in their place. Can’t figure out who made this choice, or what they’re trying to say:

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First the NSA came for, well, jeez pretty much everybody’s data at this point, and I said nothing because wait how does this joke work

— Parker Higgins via Twitter