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YouTube suspends Sky News Australia for videos denying Covid-19 existence

Google, the owner of YouTube, signed a three-year deal with News Corp in February

YouTube has suspended News Corp-owned Sky News Australia from its platform after accusing the news outlet of posting misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.

“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,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Guardian.

“We apply our policies equally for everyone regardless of the uploader, and in accordance with these policies and our long-standing strikes system, removed videos from and issued a strike to Sky News Australia’s channel.”

The spokesperson added: “Specifically, we don’t allow content that denies the existence of Covid-19 or that encourages people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus. We do allow for videos that have sufficient countervailing context, which the violative videos did not provide.”

Sky News Australia said it rejected claims that any hosts ever denied the existence of Covid-19 and that “no such videos were ever published or removed”. It said, “a review of old videos published to the channel” had uncovered material that did not comply with YouTube’s policies.

“We support broad discussion and debate on a wide range of topics and perspectives which is vital to any democracy. We take our commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously,” said a Sky News Australia spokesperson.

Why was Sky News Australia suspended?

  • The news outlet posted a variety of videos that said Covid-19 was fake and encouraged people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin as vaccines.

  • YouTube did not specify which Sky News program the videos but said the offending videos have now been removed.

  • The channel which has 1.85m subscribers, has been issued a strike and is suspended from uploading new videos or live streams for one week. Three strikes in the same 90-day period will result in a channel being permanently removed from YouTube.

  • One of Sky News’ most popular videos on YouTube is Australian right-wing commentator Alan Jones’ “Australians must know the truth – this virus is not a pandemic” video, which has 4.6 million views.

  • Sky News was forced to apologize for a Jones interview with MP Craig Kelly in which they claimed the Delta variant is not dangerous and vaccines won’t help you on July 19. The video was removed and a lengthy apology was published on the Sky News website.

  • Jones also recently called the New South Wales chief health officer Kerry Chant “a village idiot” on his Sky News program.

Why does this matter?

  • Google, the owner of YouTube, signed a three-year deal with News Corp in February that will oblige the ubiquitous search engine to pay for journalism carried on sites such as the Wall Street Journal, The Times and The Australian.

  • Both parties will also develop a subscription platform, cultivate audio and video journalism and share ad revenue.

  • The agreement ended a protracted stalemate between Google and Australia, which have been engaged in a war of words over the search giant’s failure to compensate publishers, most notably News Corp, for use of their stories.

  • Google will pay News Corp to display premium content from over 40 News Corp properties in a dedicated Google News Showcase, including The Wall Street Journal in the US, The Times in the UK, and Sky News in Australia itself.

  • The expansive deal also includes similar multi-million dollar deals with smaller Australian publishers including Seven West, Nine Entertainment, and Junkee Media.

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