YouTube channels claim to belong to senior al-Qaeda-linked cleric

Videos in the channels feature extremist content.

    2018/09/13

NSFW    SAN BRUNO, CALIFORNIA — Two YouTube channels claiming to belong to an al-Qaeda-linked cleric have been found on the Google-owned platform by TomoNews.

The man featured in both is Abdullah al-Muhaysini.

According to the New York Times, U.S. government officials suspect he's in high within the ranks of al-Qaeda's Syrian group, the Al Nusra Front. He's accused of funding them, and, has been in Syria for some time fighting against regime forces. The U.S. claims he recruited 3,000 child and teenage soldiers for al-Nusra.

One of YouTube channel claims to be Muhaysini's official YouTube channel. TomoNews couldn't confirm it was the real deal. TomoNews found another channel claiming to be one of his. Again, we don't know if it really belongs to him.

Worryingly, this second channel contains a Jihadi training video. Looks like it's been viewed by 4,000 people and has been online since October 2016.

Now we didn't see advertising on these channels, however, they're still on YouTube and
that could be a problem for the Google-owned company.

Muhaysini was sanctioned by the U.S. under Executive Order 13224 in 2016. This Bush-era law targets terrorists and their supporters. It bans U.S. persons from engaging in transactions and providing services to Muhaysini and several others named connected to the al-Nusra front.

In other words, by this guy being on YouTube, they're technically providing a service to him.

And unless they're exempt from those sanctions, that's against U.S. law.

Sanctions have impacted Internet companies for providing services in the past. In 2012, when the New York Times reported that Syrian government websites were being hosted in the U.S., the State Department responded that providing services violated U.S. sanctions.

In fact, the first channel we showed links to now-terminated Vimeo and Wordpress accounts. The Wordpress account says whatever was there violated their Terms of Service.

A YouTube spokesperson told us by email, "We terminate accounts that repeatedly violate our Community Guidelines or that violate our Terms of Service and when we are required by law to do so."

A spokesperson for the Treasury said TomoNews by email,"Treasury does not comment on investigations or possible enforcement actions, including to confirm whether one exists. However, generally speaking, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in most transactions with sanctioned individuals and entities."

After we emailed both for comment, Muhaysini's channels were terminated.

Both now display the text, "This account has been terminated for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines."
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