Are YouTube Rules being Used To Silence Human Rights Activists?

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Social media sites do a lot more aside from connecting people all around the globe. For instance, they take pride in their participation in raising awareness. Because they have an extensive reach, social media networks, like Youtube – for example -, are ideal spaces for these discussions. It is through these networks that we can gain access to the information we do not hold. 

For that reason, activists use YouTube channels to promote their advocacy and disseminate information. However, social media platforms themselves are controversial. 

Are YouTube Rules being Used To Silence Human Rights Activists?

Many times had the CEOs of social media giants been summoned to a trial. But, they repeatedly avoided the bullet. So, there were proposed laws that aimed to regulate them better. Policymakers saw the need for those actions because they see that these platforms sometimes perform shady operations. They either do nothing regarding something controversial or do the opposite of what they say. Furthermore, social media platforms sometimes exploit loopholes for their benefit.

One of the most recent controversies regarding YouTube is where it stands in protecting Human Rights. 

The YouTube Channel Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights 

From 2017 until now, thousands of Kazakh Muslims have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang, China. The few survivors who have returned to Kazakhstan reveal the outraging acts done to them during imprisonment. They say that they were tortured, beaten, and injected with unknown substances. 

The Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights YouTube channel raises awareness about this. It collects and posts testimonies from family members of people imprisoned in China. The channel gives voice to the abused so that the world will know of their condition. Hopefully, with this, they will be able to stop the inhumane operations in Xinjiang. 

For credibility, each public testimony shows proof of identity for the person testifying and the detained relatives. They are often seen holding a picture of their imprisoned relative. It underscores the organization’s integrity, says Serikzhan Bilas, the Kazakh activist behind the YouTube Channel.

Growing YouTube Views From Anti-Human Rights Theorists

The Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights Organization has done a lot regarding the issue in and out of YouTube. It has provided enormous information about the Chinese concentration camps and the dystopian regime in Xinjiang. Also, the organization has hosted journalists from all around the world, despite journalists buying real YouTube views to gain awareness. The list includes Hong Kong, Japan, Russia, the United States, Canada, Britain, France, and Germany. Even the leading media outlets, including CNN, the BBC, and the New York Times, know how valuable is the information that Atajurt provides. 

The Xianjing Victims Database also uses the information provided by Atajurt on their videos. This database records the names and identities of the abused minority. The goal is to protect these victims now and hold the Chinese authorities accountable later. Aside from documenting who has disappeared, the Xinjiang Victims Database records where detentions are occurring and which communities are most affected. A project representative stated that they had used Atajurt’s videos as a reference a thousand times. It is proof that these human rights activists are achieving something meaningful. 

Are YouTube Rules being Used To Silence Human Rights Activists?

The Youtube Channel Shutdown

It is already established that what Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights is doing is important. The organization is trying to stop inhumane activities, helping many people in the process. It gives hope to the families of the detainees and the survivors. Furthermore, it shows the members of the Kazakh community a ray of light. That light is a future where they can live in peace, without the disturbance of abusers. 

The Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights Youtube Channel plays an integral part in the movement. For that reason, the channel was loved not only by their community members but also by other human rights activists. 

Atajurt has been uploading video testimonies since 2018. YouTube did not see them as something problematic. But, out of the blue, it terminated the YouTube channel. Of course, it came as a shock to the Atajurt organization and its viewers. 

On June 15, the Atajurt YouTube channel went dark. All of the videos became unplayable, and the visitors were met with a statement that says “terminated for violating YouTube’s community guidelines.” Thankfully, the channel got reinstated after a few days – though, without public explanation from YouTube. The controversy does not end there. Several days after the channel went back online, twelve of its earliest videos disappeared from its feed. 

YouTube’s Statement

A YouTube representative said that the site welcomes responsible efforts to document important human rights cases worldwide. But, it also has strict policies that prevent channels of publishing personally identifiable information. They made these policies to prevent harassment. 

Atajurt’s videos contain this kind of information. That is why the channel was temporarily terminated. Fortunately for Atajurt, after a thorough review of the context of the videos, YouTube reinstated their channel. However, that came with a warning. YouTube wants the personally identifiable information removed from Atajurt’s videos.

This is the worst that happened to the Atajurt YouTube Channel. But, it was not the only time they went head to head with the platform. Two months before the shutdown, Atajurt received two strikes for harassment and bullying. 

YouTube’s Surprisingly Innocent Of Many Accusations Often Made for YouTube Views

At present, a dozen of their videos are locked for being suspected of praising criminal groups or terrorist organizations. It is unclear why these videos are considered as something of that nature. They are the opposite of what the organization is trying to accomplish. 

Likely, it was caused by the mass reporting campaigns by actors affiliated with the Chinese and Kazakh governments. In fact, an Atajurt representative has unearthed screenshots of what he said were instructional videos shared on WhatsApp in Kazakh. These videos teach viewers how to flag Atajurt’s videos and how mass reporting will take them down. In short, they are exploiting YouTube’s rules to put Atajurt at a disadvantage. 

Are YouTube Rules being Used To Silence Human Rights Activists?

That causes Atajurt to experience a dilemma. They can either continue what they are doing to document abuses in Xinjiang in the best way possible. However, they will risk getting taken offline by YouTube that way. The other option is to change their long-standing methods. They can blur out the personally identifying information to comply with YouTube policy. This will reduce the accuracy and credibility of their videos, though.

This highlights that there are holes in YouTube’s rules. They were not meant to cause harm to its uses. But that does not mean it is not possible to use them that way. If the platform does not change its policies, it will never be friendly to human rights activists.

YouTube Is So Big; It’s Bound To Be Accused of Everything Under the Sun

Ben McOwen Wilson, YouTube’s Regional Director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In an interview with Variety, an online news outlet, he said that the COVID-19 pandemic allowed them to show what they are capable of in applying its fact-check facilities. He added that he feels very proud that YouTube was able to continually remove, at scale, videos that violate the platform’s community guidelines amid the global pandemic. 

Europe, Middle East, Africa Chief Syas that the Pandemic Gives YouTube An Opportunity to Show What it is Capable Of

The said fact-check feature is now available in Brazil, the US, and India. In addition, the company introduced it to Germany and the UK recently. However, there is a delay in the expansion of YouTube fact check information panels to the UK. This is because the availability of local partners is limited. 

Wilson is also the managing director of YouTube UK. In the UK, the video-sharing giant has already partnered with relevant organizations, including Full Fact, BBC Reality Check, Ferret Fact Service, and FactCheckNI. In addition, fact checks in English may also show up from international organizations from India and the US. 

Wilson Talks About the Popular Platform TikTok

In addition, Wilson spoke out about how the short-form video platform TikTok can play a major role in removing harmful content online. TikTok found itself on fire after video clips of a man committing suicide on Facebook Live circulated widely on the platform. According to Wilson, the short-form video platform had a particular issue as their systems were shown to be wanting. But if they had been on any other platform, the said issue would have been far bigger and on the headlines. Still, Wilson thinks that the issue is a wake-up call for TikTok to participate in industry-wide forums, and they will be welcome to join. 

In September, TikTok’s director for government relations and public policy for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa appeared before the Parliamentary committee on online harms and disinformation. He said that the organization sent a letter to the CEOs of all the major social media platforms, such as YouTube, proposing to work together to take down harmful content. 

According to Wilson, partnerships like the aforementioned ones were already in place. There are some working groups across various areas of harm that YouTube and other social media platforms are establishing. He added that TikTok is already becoming a member of most of those other groups. 

Europe, Middle East, Africa Chief Syas that the Pandemic Gives YouTube An Opportunity to Show What it is Capable Of

Also, Wilson noted that YouTube would undoubtedly work with others in the industry and with the regulators. This is to establish standards and develop best practices around sharing. He also recalls that slightly before TikTok’s birth, the said groups have already done around violent extremism along with a vast array of topics. In addition, Wilson thinks that people should expect them to continue to play a significant role in all of the existing forms around evolving approaches to sharing information. 

NetFlix Acquired Cobra Kai

Cobra Kai is a show that YouTube created. It played for two seasons on the platform. In its third season, Netflix acquired the show and will begin streaming it in 2021. Wilson said that letting Netflix acquire Cobra Kai is a grown-up decision on both sides. For YouTube as a platform, Wilson said it probably feels less painful to let go of the show than it does to a BBC or any other broadcaster. He said that the reason is that YouTube does not feel possessive about its content. 

Moreover, Wilson used the success of YouTube star Mo Gilligan, on Netflix and Channel 4. He noted that he does not feel bitter about it. Rather, he feels proud of Mo, his alumni. 

Furthermore, according to Wilson, the video-sharing giant witnessed an increase in the consumption of content related to health during the pandemic. The executive also noted the range of diverse content on the video-sharing platform. Research conducted by Oxford Economics backs this. The study found out that 71 percent of users agreed that YouTube is home to diverse content. In addition, 76 percent of the survey participants, all UK music companies and media that use YouTube, agreed that the platform encourages diverse creators of content. Moreover, 83 percent of the surveyed British music companies and media that use YouTube said that the platform allows undiscovered talent to become known by people. 

Last year, the video-sharing giant’s creative ecosystem supported 30,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the UK. In addition, YouTube’s creative ecosystem’s total contribution to the country’s GDP was £1.4 billion or $1.81 billion. 

Moreover, 96 percent of adults in the United Kingdom use YouTube every month. In addition, the average online adult in the said country watched 46 minutes of YouTube content every day. This was according to statistics that Comscore publicized. 

YouTube Can Be Part Good and Bad, Part Priceless and Even Scary

YouTube is indeed a prevalent platform. In fact, it is the second-largest search engine next to its parent company Google. The video-sharing platform is the second most popular social media, having 1.9 billion users. 

Content creators upload about 500 hours of videos on the platform every minute. This is the reason why the video-sharing giant has to fact-check the information that these videos have. If not, the billions of individuals who use the platform will be exposed to false information. 

Europe, Middle East, Africa Chief Syas that the Pandemic Gives YouTube An Opportunity to Show What it is Capable Of

Conclusion: YouTube Luckily Started Fact-Checking Humanity And Saves It From Itself

Moreover, fact-checking is no doubt important, especially for platforms that are as big as YouTube. Many people rely on this video-sharing platform not only for entertainment purposes but also to see the latest news. So, if false information remains circulating in the platform, users will be confused about what is real and what is not. This is why YouTube has its own set of rules that content creators must follow when creating and publishing videos. It also has an algorithm that detects and takes down false information.

Date: October 22, 2021 / Categories: Comments, YouTube, / Author: Joy P


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