YouTube bars Murdoch-owned news outlet from uploads over COVID-19 misinformation

YouTube has barred Sky News Australia, owned by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, from posting content on the platform over violating YouTube’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. 

The platform removed videos from Sky News and issued a “strike” to the channel, YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi said. 

The strike means the channel is barred from posting videos for one week. If a channel receives three strikes within 90 days, it will be permanently banned, based on the platform’s guidelines. 

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“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 that could cause real-world harm,” Choi said in a statement. 

Sky News digital editor Jack Houghton wrote an article published Sunday criticizing the decision. 

Houghton said the videos “deemed unpalatable for societal consumption” included debates over whether “masks were effective and whether lockdowns were justified when considering their adverse health outcomes.” 

In a statement, Sky News Australia further pushed back, saying it “expressly rejects that any host has ever denied the existence of Covid-19 as was implied, and no such videos were ever published or removed,” CNN reported

Houghton also accused YouTube’s implementation of its policy as “censorship” based on the “political persuasion of the person making the comments.” 

Choi, however, said YouTube’s policies are applied “equally for everyone regardless of uploader.” 

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There are also exceptions in place for some violative content, including COVID-19 misinformation, that include “education, documentary scientific and artistic context.” According to YouTube, there are at least a handful of videos on Sky News Australia’s channel that have such context that were not removed by the platform. 

On the other side of the issue, YouTube has been pressed by advocates and Democrats in the U.S. to take a tougher stance against rooting out COVID-19 misinformation — especially as the number of cases rise amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant. 

In Australia, surging cases have pushed the country back into lockdowns. The lockdowns have been met with confrontation and protests.