In the crush of religion stories in the past week or two, a jewel of a Huffington Post article about YouTube’s battle against ISIS got lost in the shuffle.
Which is too bad, as it was a meticulously researched piece by Jaweed Kaleem that deserved some attention. So into the GetReligion file of guilt we go. Before everyone clicks on yet one more Pope Francis piece, or another trip into Kentucky culture wars, do give a listen to some inside information on how some of the techies are warring on Islamic extremists.
On a Thursday night late last fall, after leaving the Manhattan office where he works as a digital products specialist, Aman Ali -- a well-known comedian in American Muslim circles -- received an unusual email from YouTube.
“We need you,” read the note, which invited Ali to the company’s sprawling, 41,000-square-foot production facility in Los Angeles and promised a free flight and two nights in a hotel. “Muslim community leaders [are] struggling to have their voices heard against the overwhelming extremist and bigoted content currently surfacing the web.”
The words “Islamic State” appeared nowhere in the note asking Muslims like Ali to “change the discourse,” but the message was clear. The terrorist organization's vast media arm, with its slick recruitment videos, was winning the propaganda war. Muslims needed to figure out a way to fight back and “get your voices heard.”
YouTube, facing pressure after unwittingly hosting execution clips before the company could realize and take them down, was offering its helping hand.
What follows is a behind-the-scenes account of how 70 Muslims from around the country showed up at a YouTube studio (I am assuming it was in Manhattan but the story doesn’t say) and tutored on how to produce short, snappy videos that’d be more enticing for young Muslims to watch than ISIS recruitment fodder.