New Delhi: The video sharing platform YouTube has blocked the channel of news website Millat Times after the outlet published a news video on protests in Maharashtra against the COVID-19 lockdown.
The report, ‘People Continue Protest Against Lockdown, Gherao CM’s House’ was published on April 9 and had clips showing people complaining against the Maharashtra government’s move to bring curbs to tackle COVID-19 numbers.
Citing violations to its ‘Community Guidelines’, YouTube removed the video on April 9 itself. The site said that it violates YouTube’s ‘medical misinformation policy.’
@YouTube has blocked the @Millat_Times account for a week. We published a protest report against the lockdown in Mumbai, which was deleted by YouTube citing violations of the Community Guidelines (and also blocked the channel for a week by going on strike) pic.twitter.com/jSlQaCbVrA
— Millat Times (@Millat_Times) April 10, 2021
Millat Times’ YouTube channel has been put on a 90-day ban and has been warned of more action if it violates any community guidelines during this period.
Shams Tabrez, chief editor at Millat Times, told The Wire that the protesters were mostly daily wage workers. He added, “They were protesting near the Maharashtra chief minister’s residence and speaking about the issues that they will face in their life due to the lockdown.”
Tabrez said the workers were scared of a repeat of last year. “They were scared, of course, we all know what happened to migrant workers during the nationwide lockdown [in 2020]. Whatever they said was presented as it is by us. It was their version, not fake news,” he said.
The publication’s YouTube channel has close to 8 lakh subscribers. Their Facebook page has more than 5 lakh followers. “We can no longer upload videos there for a week, but we will continue to work,” Millat Times tweeted on Sunday.
The website was started in 2016, and has often faced censorship on YouTube and Facebook. Tabrez told The Wire, “YouTube has deleted our videos even before. One was a story about the mob lynching of a Muslim man over allegations of eating beef, and another was on the Delhi riots [of February 2020]. The riots were ugly and we had attempted to show its brutality as it is. But it was deleted.”
Tabrez feels that YouTube and Facebook often target smaller media platforms which raise the issues that are neglected by the mainstream media. “In any case, smaller social media channels have limited resources, and these censorship rules make it even worse. All big channels show communal debates all the time – which are made available on YouTube too. No action is ever taken against them,” he added.
Through an email, Tabrez has requested YouTube to reactivate and unblock the channel by ending the ban. “The video on which this action was taken is true and based on facts. There is neither fake news nor misinformation on COVID-19,” Tabrez’s email read.
“We are waiting for YouTube’s response. Till then, we will find other ways to publish our work,” Tabrez told The Wire.
The Wire has reached out to YouTube and Google and will update the story if and when a response is received.