01 Jul 2021: YouTube removes human rights group’s videos documenting China’s Xinjiang atrocities
Google-owned video-sharing platform YouTube reportedly took down a human rights group’s channel that documented testimonies about the atrocities in China’s Xinjiang province. YouTube said the uploaded videos violate its anti-harassment policy and rules against displaying personal information. While the YouTube channel was restored after three days, the group behind it has decided to move its content to a lesser-known rival service called Odysee.
Flak and acclaim: The YouTube channel is run by Kazakh activist Serikzhan Bilash
Reuters reported that on June 15, Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights’ YouTube channel was completely disabled. It was run by Serikzhan Bilash, a Xinjiang-born Kazakh activist, who has been behind bars multiple times for activism. The YouTube channel has drawn flak from Kazakh authorities regularly since 2017. However, the channel has been credited by organizations of international acclaim, including Human Rights Watch.
No explanation: Channel taken down since 12 videos violated YouTube policies
Since 2017, the YouTube channel has published close to 11,000 videos and accrued over 120 million views. Reuters reported that on June 15, the channel was blocked since 12 of its videos violated YouTube’s policies on “cyberbullying and harassment.” The channel appealed the blocking and some videos were reinstated but no explanation was provided for why some videos weren’t restored.
Trustworthiness first: IDs shown by Xinjiang victims’ families violate separate policies: YouTube
After Reuters questioned YouTube about the channel’s removal, the Google-owned video platform reinstated it on June 18. However, YouTube maintained people holding up ID cards—to prove their relation to those who went missing in Xinjiang—violated its policy that prohibits displaying personally identifiable information in the videos. YouTube asked Atajurt to blur the IDs but the channel’s administrators argued that would compromise the content’s trustworthiness.
YouTube losing trust?: Channel administrators now backing up YouTube repository on blockchain-based Odysee
Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights is now backing up its YouTube channel content to a blockchain-based platform called Odysee. So far, 975 videos have been migrated. One of Atajurt’s founders, Bilash said, “There is another excuse every day. I never trusted YouTube.” Meanwhile, YouTube’s parent Google told MIT Technology Review that it appreciates “responsible efforts to document important human rights cases around the world.”
Details: China denies all allegations of atrocities against Uighur Muslims
An Amnesty International report from earlier this month found that the Chinese Government has sanctioned torture, abuse, ideological training, and persecution of Uighur Muslims and Kazakhs in Xinjiang, China. Separately, the United Nations estimated that at least a million Uighurs are held against their will in camps in China. The Chinese state, however, has vehemently denied all these accusations.
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