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YouTube pulls clips it says incite violence

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Congressman's complaint focused on videos from renegade cleric al-Awlaki
  • YouTube says it has pulled a "significant number" of clips
  • The site bars videos that incite violence, but "purely religious" clips are OK

(CNN) -- After a complaint from a New York congressman, the video website YouTube has removed "a significant number" of clips found to be inciting violence, its operators said Thursday.

"These are difficult issues, and material that is brought to our attention is reviewed carefully. We will continue to remove all content that incites violence according to our policies," the site announced in a written statement.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, urged the company in October to pull videos that featured renegade American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. U.S. officials say al-Awlaki, the former imam of a Virginia mosque, has become an important operational figure within the Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda.

"I understand that YouTube is a clearing house for ideas and that your company aims to not infringe on free speech," Weiner wrote to YouTube CEO Chad Hurley. "But al-Awlaki's message, promoted via YouTube, has caused violence and is a threat to American security. I request that you remove this man and his hateful rhetoric from your website, as he poses a clear and present danger to American citizens."

Weiner said al-Awlaki appeared in more than 700 YouTube clips that had been viewed a total of 3.5 million times. The company did not identify any specific clips that it had removed.

YouTube said its policies bar videos of "dangerous or illegal activities such as bomb-making, hate speech, and incitement to commit violent acts," as well as any account registered by member of a designated international terrorist organization "and used in an official capacity" to further its interests.

"We have removed a significant number of videos under these policies," the company said. But it added, "Material of a purely religious nature will remain on the site."