Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Google [EC 17]

I am writing to you to follow up on questions you raised during my evidence session to the Committee as part of your inquiry into E-crime.


YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe. Every day, hundreds of thousands of videos are uploaded to YouTube. In fact, 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Because of the massive scale of You Tube, it is simply not possible to pre-screen all of the content.

As I explained during the evidence session, to ensure that our Community Guidelines are followed, we have developed an innovative community policing system that involves our users in helping us to enforce YouTube’s standards. Every day, thousands of users report potential violations of our standards by selecting the “Flag” link while watching videos. Once a user flags a video, a manual review is triggered, and content that breaks our guidelines is promptly removed. Our global policy enforcement team reviews flagged content 24 hours a day, seven days a week, routinely removing material that violates our policies.

Once a video that violates our policies is removed from YouTube, it will be blocked from ever being uploaded to YouTube again. Our systems prevent the re-uploading of videos by creating a unique “fingerprint” of every video we remove. If a user tries to upload an identical video again, it is automatically rejected, regardless of whether the user is using a different user or file name. In addition, our policies ensure that users who repeatedly upload material in violation of YouTube’s Guidelines have their accounts suspended.

As for the specific content policies that relate to terrorism, our Community Guidelines clearly prohibit videos that promote terrorism, contain hate speech and videos that are posted with the purpose of inciting others to commit violent acts including bomb-making, sniper attacks, or other terrorist acts. We also remove all videos and terminate all accounts 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 take this matter very seriously. Hundreds of videos that use the term “Awlaki” and violate our policies have been flagged by the YouTube Community and subsequently removed from the site by our Removals team.

But we are constantly looking to new ways to improve YouTube, most recently by introducing a programme called “YouTube Deputise” where we invite a small set of users who flag policy-violating content regularly and accurately to access more advanced flagging tools. Initial feedback from piloting this programme suggests that it has resulted in a fivefold increase in flagging from these users without diminishing the accuracy.

We have invited the Counter Terrorism Unit, CEOP and SOCA to become part of this new system to assist them in flagging videos to us at scale. We think this will ensure that UK law enforcement bodies are even better equipped to alert us to policy-violating content as and when it is uploaded onto YouTube in the future.

There does remain, however, some videos that cite Awlaki or include his words on YouTube. While we will continue to remove content that incites violence according to our policies, material that is newsworthy or that does not promote violence will remain on the site. Our policies aim to draw a careful line between enabling free expression and religious speech or political speech while prohibiting content that incites violence. We strongly believe that YouTube is a richer and more relevant platform for users precisely because of the diverse range of views it hosts.

Use of Google Ad Grants by UK Charities

Google Ad Grants is a programme whereby any not for profit can apply to receive up to $10k per month of free advertising on our platforms. You can find out more about the programme at www.google.co.uk/grants.

By the end of 2012 we had donated over $33 million to over 11,000 UK charities through giving them this free advertising (including the Samiritans).

Sarah Hunter
Head of UK Public Policy

March 2013

Prepared 29th July 2013