YouTube Suspends Conservative Sky News Australia

YouTube has temporarily suspended popular Sky News Australia, a conservative news org, for what the big tech giant calls “Covid-19 misinformation.”

QUICK FACTS:
  • Sky News Australia cannot upload to the YouTube video platform or livestream content for seven days.
  • This was the conservative news channel’s first strike.
  • YouTube issued the strike because the platform does not “allow content that denies the existence of COVID-19 or that encourages people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Guardian.
  • Local media reported the strike came into effect on July 29, according to The Epoch Times.
  • YouTube did not say which Sky News video caused the suspension.
  • YouTube responded to media requests mentioning its “denial of COVID-19” policies but it later dropped that reference in future media statements, according to Sky News.
  • With 1.85 million subscribers, ‘Sky News Australia’ on YouTube has 400,000 subscribers more than ABC News, and is more popular than all three of Australia’s commercial news network’s YouTube channels combined, also notes Sky News.
WHY SKY NEWS WAS SUSPENDED:
  • The digital giant issued the strike after the channel posted videos “denying the existence of disease and encouraging people to use discredited medication,” reports the Guardian, or because it “encouraged people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin.
WHAT SKY NEWS SAID:
  • “Sky News Australia expressly rejects that any host has ever denied the existence of COVID-19 as was implied, and no such videos were ever published or removed,” said Sky News.
  • The news org also said that the suspension might have been over “old videos” posted on its channel.
  • “We take our commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously,” said a Sky News spokesperson.
  • The Sky News Australia website said its network “acknowledges YouTube’s right to enforce its policies” and that it “looks forward to continuing to publish its popular news and analysis content back to its audience of 1.85 million YouTube subscribers shortly.”
  • “We support broad discussion and debate on a wide range of topics and perspectives which is vital to any democracy. We take our commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously.”
  • Sky News says global health authority guidance is constantly “subject to change.”
WHAT ELSE YOUTUBE SAID:
  • “We do allow for videos that have sufficient countervailing context, which the violative videos did not provide,” said YouTube.
  • “We have clear and established Covid-19 medical misinformation policies based on local and global health authority guidance, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 misinformation that could cause real-world harm,” a YouTube spokesperson told Guardian Australia.
  • “We apply our policies equally for everyone regardless of uploader, and in accordance with these policies and our long-standing strikes system, removed videos from and issued a strike to Sky News Australia’s channel.”
BACKGROUND:
  • The strike means that Sky News Australia is suspended for a week from uploading content to its YouTube account.
  • Three strikes within a 90 days period will see a channel banned permanently from the platform, according to YouTube’s policy.
  • The Guardian notes that the ban will impact Sky News’s revenue stream from Google, which started after News Corp signed a historic multi-year partnership with Google in February under the media bargaining code.
  • News of the strike came the same day Sky launched a new free-to-air channel, Sky News Regional.
  • YouTube’s reaction contrasts the response from local media regulators, neither the Australian Communications and Media Authority nor Astra (the subscription television body), taking any action against Sky News’ content.
  • One of Sky News’ most popular videos uploaded to YouTube, according to The Guardian is titled “Australians must know the truth – this virus is not a pandemic,” which was posted at the height of the pandemic last year. It has 4.6 million views.
  • The Sky News Australia YouTube channel has published more than 20,000 videos over the past year, notes Sky News.