The relative freedom of Youtube has fostered a wealth of content from across the globe, covering all manner of subjects, but a German man is now in hiding after terrorists perpetrated a hoax copyright inquiry with the online video service and were able to gain the man’s personal information. The man works for the German branch of Al Hayat TV an Arabic language YouTube station which is known to be critical of Islam and, more specifically, of Islamists.
Terrorists were able to gain his personal information when they filed a fake copyright claim against the channel, under the false name “First Crist, Copyright.”
YouTube received the notice known as a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice and forwarded it to the individual in order to allow him to answer the notice and avoid the removal of the channel from Youtube. In order to prevent this, Youtube informed Al Hayat TV that a counter-notification must be submitted. In accordance with Youtube policy, that counter-notification is forwarded to the individual or organization filing the initial takedown notice.
When forwarding such a notice to anyone alleged to have infringed copyright, Youtube discloses that “By submitting a counter-notification, you consent to having your data be disclosed in this manner.” People connected with Al Hayat TV had their suspicions as to who was behind the original notice and attempted to explain to Youtube that this was a ruse, perpetrated by Islamist extremists. According to a report in the German Newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, Youtube was not interested in AlHayat‘s claims.
After a first DMCA notice – assuming it is not answered satisfactorily – Youtube will lock a channel following two further complaints. In the case of AlHayat TV, this is precisely what happened.
In order to continue operation of the channel, the AlHayat employee agreed to answer the notice. A short time later, he received a message from “”First Crist, Copyright” which said “thank you for your personal data” and added the warning “take care your house gets police protection!”
The man has since been forced to cease working for the channel and is reported to be in hiding and is now on an al Qaeda ‘blacklist.’ No direct involvement by al Qaeda has been verified, although the hoax could have been instigated by any number of Islamist extremist factions.
Sabatina James, who is described as a moderator for the Youtube station, has expressed concern over the incident, claiming that the copyright team at Youtube were not sensitive to the pleas of the channel. James is a prominent activist for the rights of women in Muslim countries. The name is assumed. She is originally from Pakistan but her parents moved to Austria when she was young. Facing the prospect of being sent back to Pakistan for an arranged marriage, James escaped her family and has been in hiding since, having received death threats.
James, like the other figures behind AlHayat, is a convert from Islam. In addition to her refusal to enter into an arranged marriage, her conversion makes her a target for Islamist groups.
Other providers of Youtube content have been targeted with hoax copyright claims, aimed only at shutting them down, but if terrorist groups are now using this tactic as a way to gain the personal information of individuals they wish to target, it may prompt Google, Youtube’s parent company, to rethink their policies for dealing with copyright infringement claims.
Graham J Noble