According to Reuters, YouTube removed multiple videos from a humanrights organization's channel for breaking its anti-harassment policy, whichwas aiming to chronicle human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang province.
On June 15th, Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights announced that theGoogle-owned video platform had completely banned its channel after receivingtoo many strikes for films in which people produced identification cards proving they were related to missing Xinjiang residents. This appears to have violated YouTube's policy against the publication of personal information, resulting in the films' removal. According to Reuters, the channel was restored three days later.
YouTube allegedly ordered Atajurt to remove or obscure the IDs inthe videos, but the channel's administrator refused, citing concerns that doingso would jeopardize the channel's legitimacy. Human Rights Watch, for example, has complimented Atajurt for his role in exposing human rights atrocities. According to MIT Technology Review, Atajurt publishes testimony from relatives of those incarcerated in Chinese Xinjiang internment camps.
Most of the movies that were removed were restored after appeals,but some remained unviewable, and Atajurt is backing up its videos on theblockchain-based video network Odysee, according to Reuters.
A YouTube spokesperson said the company's harassment policy"clearly prohibits content that reveals someone's personally identifiableinformation, such as their government identification or phone numbers," and that it enforces its policies "equally for everyone." However, the spokesperson added that the videos were not posted with the intent of "maliciously revealing" personal information. “We reinstated the channel after a thorough assessment of their appeal, and we're working with Atajurt Kazakh to explain our policies so they can make the best decisions for their channel.”
According to an Amnesty International study released on June 10th,the Chinese government has carried out state-sponsored persecution, includingtorture, against Uyghurs and Kazakhs in the Xinjiang province in western China. The United Nations estimates that at least one million Uyghurs are detained in Chinese detention camps, a claim China denies.
The takedowns raise concerns about YouTube's regulations as well asthe origins of the requests. While Atajurt appears to have broken some laws,it's unclear how this applies to all of their videos or why they weren't considered an exemption. It's also worth noting that the takedowns occurred in response to reports, rather than as a result of YouTube's own moderation policies. Atajurt expressed fear that the removal requests may have come from pro-China groups seeking to silence information of Xinjiang's atrocities. YouTube could be stuck in the middle of an ideological battle, and it could have accidentally aided the side attempting to hide heinous deeds.