YouTube reportedly censors videos about novel coronavirus by removal or demonetization, company says they fall under “sensitive topics”

As the novel coronavirus outbreak continues in China and the rest of the world, numerous videos have been posted on YouTube, suggesting with fair account, that the actual death toll caused by the disease is higher than the official figures. Youtube has been accused of censoring content that give these alternative accounts of the coronavirus situation in China by removing such videos or associated ads.

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre is invited Google, parent company of YouTube, to respond, it did not. A tweet from Youtube’s official account has been included below, with the company saying that videos featuring the coronavirus falls under “sensitive topics” advertising-friendly guideline.

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Company non-response
19 March 2020

Google did not respond

5 March 2020

Hong Kong: Youtube reportedly says it's "sorry" for demonetising coronavirus-related videos at meeting with Youtubers

Author: Stand News (Hong Kong)

[Excerpt translation provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre]

“Youtube says it's "sorry" for “yellow marker” as coronavirus situation is categorized as “sensitive topic”; Youtuber: there is pressure from international institutions”, 4 March 2020

The “Yellow Marker” incident induced by the Wuahn coronavirus epidemic has led netizens to question whether Youtube is suppressing freedom of speech.  Some even initiated a petition against Youtube’s censorship to the White House. Youtube sent some representatives from the Asia Pacific region to attend a meeting with renowned Youtubers. While apologizing for the incident, the representatives emphasized that they have not violated1 the freedom of speech. According to Youtuber Wong Yeung-ling who also attended the meeting, representatives from Youtube mentioned that artificial Intelligence was involved in the incident and that they have pressured senior staff. A spokesperson from Google, Youtube’s parent company, said that as content related to the novel coronavirus is categorized as “controversial issues and sensitive events” under its advertiser-friendly content guidelines, advertising revenue would be restricted or could not be generated. The spokesperson also emphasized that no political stance is involved when reviewing whether the video content meets the monetization policy.

When interviewed by Stand News, Wong Yeung-ling said that according to the Youtube representatives, since 30 January “there has been pressure from supervisors” who ordered that the global coronavirus situation should be taken seriously; rumours and fake news should be stopped from spreading and rigid measures should be adopted if needed, though involving parties have already told senior staff members that they did not agree with handling the matter rigidly…

Wong also said that representatives from Youtube proposed that a trial reporting mechanism could be introduced to allow Youtuber to self-report and appeal more specifically. The general procedures are that Youtubers who have been “yellow marked” could fill in a content declaration form and declare whether violence, pornography or other inappropriate content is involved in the videos. After that, the video could be set to be published at a later time; if the video is soon “yellow marked” automatically, the video could be sent to Youtube for manual checking before publishing. Youtube staff could consider whether the Youtuber has made an accurate declaration according to the new reporting mechanism; if the content is not problematic and the declaration is accurate, it is likely that the yellow marker will be removed.

Besides, Wong and a few other participants mentioned in the meeting that though many newly uploaded videos are “unrelated to the epidemic” , they are yellow marked automatically; It is almost like the entire channel has been put into the yellow mark observation list. In response, the Youtube representatives said at the meeting that they have also made similar observations and enquired the technical department, which replied that technicians have not set up “accumulative yellow marks” that are said to cause all videos to be yellow marked “regardless of the topics”. The exact cause of the phenomenon was not clarified at the meeting.

As for accusations of suppressing freedom of speech, Wong said that representatives from Youtube repeatedly emphasized that the incident is unrelated to freedom of speech. They also said that they cherished the platform ecology formed by advertisers, audience and Youtuber. They added that the incident does not involve the removal of videos, only that no advertising revenue would be generated with the yellow marks, which should not count as a form of suppressing freedom of speech.

Read the full post here

5 March 2020

Youtube reportedly demonetizes videos about coronavirus; company said subject falls under "sensitive topic"

Author: The Verge

“YouTube is demonetizing videos about coronavirus, and creators are mad”, 4 March 2020

Everyone wants to talk about the novel coronavirus outbreak right now, but you might hear YouTubers avoiding the subject — if they talk about it, they risk getting their ads shut off…

YouTube has demonetized videos about sensitive subjects in the past. The company’s advertising guidelines state that sensitive topics — usually a recent event with a “loss of life, typically as a result of a pre-planned malicious attack” — are normally not suitable for advertising. These videos are allowed to stay on the platform; they just can’t make money from YouTube’s built-in ad service.

YouTube said that the coronavirus outbreak is now being considered a sensitive topic. “As such, all videos focused on this topic will be demonetized until further notice,” Tom Leung, product officer at YouTube, said in a recent video. The policy exists to protect advertisers.

The new coronavirus meets the typical criteria. More than 95,000 COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) cases have been reported worldwide, and more than 3,200 people have died. Fears over the virus spreading have led to organizers for massive tech conferences, including Google I/O, Facebook’s F8, and the annual Game Developers Conference, to cancel or postpone the events. Disney’s theme parks have shut down across Asia, and more offices are telling employees to stay home…

But not everyone gets demonetized. News channels often run videos about sensitive topics with ads that play because they provide the ads themselves…

… The company told The Verge that there are strict policies that govern what kinds of videos are allowed to have ads on, and it said policies are applied without bias. The company also told The Verge that if a creator’s channel is dedicated to covering sensitive subjects, they should still be able to monetize while making videos about stories like the novel coronavirus…

Read the full post here

3 March 2020

Petitioners accuse Google of censoring Youtube videos regarding coronavirus situation in China


“Google is censoring legitimate YouTube videos about the new coronavirus in China”

Google has recently started censoring all YouTube videos regarding the new coronavirus situation in China.  Majority of these videos are legitimate.  These videos covers news conferences from government officials, current situations and reactiions from Chinese citizens who are affected, and YouTubers who shares their views on the situation based on factual news and events.

Google has either remove the videos from the YouTube site or has removed all advertisements from these vidoes.

Google needs to improve their censorship tools and the censorship validation process.  As a result of Google's inappropriate use of their censorship tools, many voices who represents the view of the citizens are being silenced.

Google must either stop these inappropriate censorships immediately or enhance the validity of their censorship tools, in order to avoid silencing the news media from deliverying factual news and opinions of the current situations related to the new coronavirus.  News media in Hong Kong have been affected the most.  However this inappropriate censorship must be corrected in all regions of the world.

Read the full post here

19 February 2020

Youtube says coronavirus videos fall under "sensitive topics" advertiser-friendly guideline

Author: @TeamYouTube (YouTube's official account on Twitter)

We want to confirm that videos that focus on coronavirus fall under the “sensitive topics” advertiser-friendly guideline. This is why they result in limited or no ads (yellow icons).
You can review the ad-friendly guidelines in more detail here:

Read the full post here