Google-owned YouTube suspended Sky News Australia on Thursday for violating their ever-changing COVID-19 policies. In what seems to be YouTube’s largest crackdown on COVID-19 content deemed “misinformation,” the tech giant did not point to specific videos but said in a statement that the allegedly objectionable Sky News content “could cause real-world harm.”
While the suspension has now been lifted, it appears YouTube has permanently deleted the videos in question. The suspension marks the first “strike” against Sky News — two more would lead to a permanent ban of the channel.
A YouTube spokesman told “The Guardian” that the video site does “not allow content that denies the existence of Covid-19,” or which encouraged people “to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus.” The spokesman added that the videos in question “did not provide sufficient countervailing context.”
Sky News Australia is owned by a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Sky News. It also has the highest subscriber count for any Australian news outlet. According to the BBC, the ban could affect its revenue stream from Google.
In a statement on its website, Sky News said it “acknowledges YouTube’s right to enforce its policies and looks forward to continuing to publish its popular news and analysis content to its subscribers shortly.”
Not everyone in the Sky News family was as amiable as the outlet’s official statement, however. In a Sunday column, Digital Editor Jack Houghton defended the deleted YouTube videos and attacked YouTube’s unscientific suspension and banning system.
“Among the videos deemed unpalatable for societal consumption were debates around whether masks were effective and whether lockdowns were justified when considering their adverse health outcomes,” Houghton wrote. “The stance taken by some commentators at this network was that masks are not effective in containing outbreaks, particularly when mandated outside in the fresh air. Some also took issue with the frequency and mechanisms of locking down Australians. Other commentators vehemently disagreed, and their views were also published.”
According to Houghton, most of the removed YouTube content was from 2020, and he charged the Big Tech platform with “looking at the debates and discussions through the lens of contemporary health advice.”
YouTube censorship has increased dramatically since the onset of the pandemic. Sky News isn’t the only affected outlet. In February, LifeSite News, a Canadian conservative publication, was permanently banned on YouTube for violating the platform’s “COVID-19 misinformation policy.” YouTube has even banned two videos of doctors testifying under oath at a U.S. Senate hearing on early COVID treatment.