In the process of expunging terrorist propaganda, YouTube has erroneously removed thousands of videos documenting attacks in Syria that could be used for future war crimes prosecutions, reports The New York Times. Given that Syria’s independent media dissolved as conflict erupted there, subsequent reporting from the ground by Syrian citizens is a key component of documentation that risks being lost, human rights activists say.
YouTube has reinstated “some” of the videos that were removed after creators reported the errors, notes the Times, though an “unspecified” number of videos and channels have been deleted thus far.
Before the so-called ‘Adpocalypse‘, YouTube primarily relied on its users to flag inappropriate content, with videos then being prioritized by an algorithm and sent for human review, according to the Times. But after major marketers boycotted YouTube when their ads ran against terrorist propaganda earlier this year, YouTube said it would take new steps to clean its airwaves. This includes machine learning to identify and prioritize extremist videos — most of which also undergo human review before being removed.
YouTube told the Times that its methodology would continue to improve over time, and that it acts quickly to correct any errors when discovered. In order to avoid being incorrectly flagged, the company also advises organizations to provide context and clarify their intent when posting such videos in both the online summary and metadata tags.