On Wednesday, News2Share editor-in-chief Ford Fischer announced that video hosting site YouTube had demonetized the news outlet’s entire YouTube channel. The video journalist has been engaged in on-and-off fights with YouTube for years over his filming of controversial topics.
“After me spending the last week criticizing @TeamYouTube's takedown of my raw footage from January 6, they have just demonetized my ENTIRE CHANNEL,” Fischer tweeted on Wednesday, noting that the site accused him of producing "content that focuses on controversial issues and that is harmful to viewers.”
BREAKING: After me spending the last week criticizing @TeamYouTube's takedown of my raw footage from January 6, they have just demonetized my ENTIRE CHANNEL.— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) February 3, 2021
They say I produce "Content that focuses on controversial issues and that is harmful to viewers"https://t.co/gqQwSKiDFu pic.twitter.com/lTs4zRxKTT
Founded in 2014, News2Share’s nearly 1,600 videos on YouTube have been collectively viewed by some 25.4 million people and the channel has 52,000 subscribers.
Some of the material can be shocking and include controversial topics, since the outlet covers protests, rallies, and press conferences by figures and groups from across the political spectrum, from the Proud Boys to Antifa, and posts its video footage from events without edits.
“Automated video takedowns, demonetization, and incorrect markings of content and profiles as ‘inappropriate’ has plagued the social media sites I use, seemingly administered for the most part by algorithms making decisions, or humans with no oversight or accessibility to the user,” Fischer said in a statement obtained by Sputnik.
“Unfortunately, I’ve found that the drastic step of public advocacy is the only method that seems to work. I am not an activist, but if years of covering activism has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is more powerful than using one’s voice to hold unaccountable institutions accountable. For now, it is my intention to make the public aware of what happened, and how it can affect them. I will do this until YouTube realizes and fixes its mistakes,” he added.
Progressive political analyst Jamarl Thomas, who also co-hosts Fault Lines on Radio Sputnik, said on Wednesday that his channel, with more than 9 million views and some 30,000 subscribers, had suffered an identical fate to Fischer’s.
“You guys have destroyed my channel without legit explanation as to why,” Thomas tweeted at several of YouTube’s Twitter accounts. “No videos are given - and frankly there is literally zero ‘harmful’ content on my channel. This is a radically bad error that needs to be corrected … Nothing on my channel even comes [close] to the guidelines on ‘harm’ and I honestly resent the defamation.”
You guys have destroyed my channel without legit explanation as to why. No videos are given - and frankly there is literally zero "harmful' content on my channel. This is a radically bad error that needs to be corrected. @TeamYouTube @YouTubeCreators @YouTube— ProgressiveSoapbox (@theProgSoapbox) February 3, 2021
Crackdown on ‘Harmful’ Content
For independent content creators with small budgets, monetization of their content can provide a vital source of income, as each view adds to a check YouTube cuts for its partners. However, the clumsy and seemingly arbitrary way in which the Google-owned company goes about removing either a video’s monetization or the video entirely has led to some awkward interactions via social media and prolonged campaigns to redress grievances with the process.
In the absence of his monetized channel, Fischer said he would have to rely on donations via Patreon to pay the bills, which include travel costs to record the outlet’s content.
On Monday, Fischer called attention to YouTube’s removal of one video shot on January 6: a continuous reel of the crowd outside the White House during then-US President Donald Trump’s speech. The event took place prior to the insurrection at the Capitol. In response, YouTube’s “Team YouTube” Twitter account replied that his video was removed because it “didn’t include countervailing views or sufficient context of the claims made in the footage. As videos can be embedded across the web, we only allow this content to remain on the platform if there’s appropriate context within the video itself.”
Fischer retorted that it was actually his video that sported greater context because it did more than simply show footage of Trump speaking at a vaguely-named “save America rally.”
With respect, not only is it not true that other news videos had additional context; mine had more.— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) February 3, 2021
To this day, the mainstream networks have the raw footage with speech only and simply call it a “save America rally.”
Only mine showed context.https://t.co/bq7iJ4j9Da pic.twitter.com/gi8cxRloH1
YouTube’s actions come amid a widespread crackdown by tech giants on far-right content, including QAnon and other conspiracy theories promulgated by groups who participated in the January 6 assault on the US Capitol. The takedown began with Twitter’s censure and subsequent removal of Trump’s personal account but soon extended to accounts pushing the narrative that Trump had actually won the November 3, 2020, election, and that US President Joe Biden had “stolen” the victory from him.
However, it also falls within a larger initiative by the tech giants to regulate harmful content on their sites after several mass shooting events in which the shooters livestreamed the massacres online. It has been extended to include fighting “disinformation” by including links to information about various topics, including COVID-19 and mail-in ballots, and the flagging of accounts ostensibly linked to state-affiliated media outlets with content notices.
Another thread in this cable of censorship has been the Russiagate scandal, in which Democrats and sections of the US national security state opposed to Trump attempted to blame his unexpected 2016 election victory - and every inconvenient political event thereafter - on alleged Russian interference.
Corporate Media Gets Special Pass
In his response to YouTube above, Fischer included several screenshots of other networks’ similar videos, including from CBS-affiliate networks WBNS 10 and KCTV 5, that had not been removed but which showed essentially the same content as his.
Speaking with Sputnik during a prior fight against demonetization of specific videos on News2Share in October 2019, Fischer noted that corporate news sites like ABC and the Atlantic have featured the same content he has on their own YouTube channels without reproach by the Google subsidiary.
“The actual channel, to people who aren’t familiar, is entirely just raw footage of news situations,” he told Radio Sputnik's Fault Lines in 2019 about his outlet. “So the channel itself has no ideology, let alone hateful ideology, but in some cases it’s documenting either people who are protesting against things that are hateful or video that would be of individuals who would be considered hateful. But of course again, CNN wouldn’t be punished for reporting on white nationalists, for example.”
Sputnik reported at the time how analyst YouTube Analyzed and YouTube channel Nerd City proved that YouTube ran an automatic demonetization algorithm based on an exhaustive list of keywords detected in video descriptions. However, those rules did not seem to be applied to corporate media outlets. The list included a number of commonly covered topics in the media, including Palestine, Osama bin Laden, Syria, Ukraine, trans and gay, which would automatically exclude videos that cover protests or other events involving those issues from generating income based on views.