YouTube Bans Sky News Australia For A Week After COVID Misinformation

Aug 3, 2021 4:02 AM
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YouTube has banned Sky News Australia from posting any videos for a week, after the NewsCorp channel spread COVID misinformation online.

Sky News Australia is one of the biggest YouTube channels in the country, with nearly 2 million subscribers. Among the claims in their videos, Sky News denied the existence of COVID and peddled untested medications to treat the virus, YouTube told The Guardian.

While the platform didn’t specify which videos were removed, YouTube did confirm that multiple clips were taken down as part of the process. The right-wing outlet also questioned the use of masks and lockdowns to combat the global pandemic, while Alan Jones challenged the severity of the Delta variant.

I’ve seen YouTube delete channels for literally no reason at all. The fact that Sky News Australia was even given a reason for its suspension is at least in that way a very unique privilege. — Huw Parkinson (@rabbitandcoffee) August 1, 2021

In one of their last videos posted last Wednesday, Sky News Australia criticised NSW authorities for extending Greater Sydney’s current second lockdown.

“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,” said a YouTube spokesperson.

YouTube, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, explained that Sky was officially on strike one. Two more breaches within the next 90 days would lead to their permanent removal off the site.

Can the Sky News ban last for more than seven days please? — Lord Cthulhu (@LordCthulhu2) August 1, 2021

In an opinion piece shared on Sunday, Sky’s digital editor Jack Houghton predictably decried that the ban was an attack on free speech, and drew comparison to the Holocaust.

“It is hard not to look at some of these tech giant censorship decisions as being based on one factor, the political persuasion of the person making the comments,” he whinged, saying the “freedom to engage in debate” has historically “been snuffed out by leaders of more totalitarian persuasions” and will lead us down a path of horror if not reversed.

“Holodomor, Auschwitz and Mao, are just three historical examples,” he wrote.

A 2020 report by the University of Canberra found that social media is the main source of COVID misinformation, and one-third of respondents who saw it had encountered it via news media outlets.

YouTube’s decision comes as part of a wider crackdown on fake news around vaccines, treatments, and the virus itself, with Google recently blocking 11,000 COVID-related ads in the space of a month.