January 05, 2010 CNN PHILLIPS: What would we do without it? The funny, the zany, the outrageous videos on YouTube, but there is a darker, sinister si
January 6, 2010

January 05, 2010 CNN

PHILLIPS: What would we do without it? The funny, the zany, the outrageous videos on YouTube, but there is a darker, sinister side that you probably don't know about: radical Islamic groups apparently using YouTube to recruit young terrorists. CNN's Nic Robertson has this alarming story.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is as simple and scary as this: YouTube videos as a connection between young men and gun-toting radicals.

BEN VENZKE, CEO, INTELCENTER: YouTube is sort of -- could be that first hit for some people simply because of the mere scale and size of it. But it's going to be just that initial hit, and then they're going to move on into deeper levels.

ROBERTSON: Pakistani police say it's exactly what happened in the case of five Americans arrested there. Police say the men, aged from 18 to 25, were on their way to terror training camps.

But why would an average youngster even look at a radical video?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY CENTER ON LAW & SECURITY: A friend might encourage the kid to look at a YouTube video. He visits the site. He sees the video is well produced; it's compelling. He sees there are lots of comments on the site, all of them in English, and soon he starts commenting, as well.

ROBERTSON: After that, it's a very slippery slope, say terror experts. Extremists are watching online chats, looking for potential new recruits.

VENZKE: It sort of provides a filtering opportunity for them. They are able to sort of push out their message, see who responds to it.

ROBERTSON: It's getting the conversation and the videos together that's making the difference. According to CIA veteran Marc Sageman, no one ever got radicalized watching videos alone.

MARC SAGEMAN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: YouTube, the various videos that are posted, are very important in terms of seeing them. But then it's really discussing their significance with your friends that, in a sense, drives the point home as opposed to just watching them.

ROBERTSON (on camera): What's making YouTube such a powerful tool for the Internet radicalizers is the built-in social networking media. Look at this: Revolution Muslim, an American group, 296 subscribers. Look at those subscribers here.

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