On Monday, YouTube permanently banned Right Wing Watch, a nonprofit watchdog that highlights and warns about conspiracy theories, disinformation and hate speech on the far right, before reversing the ban later in the day.
The popular channel, which highlights and warns viewers about conspiracy theories, disinformation and hate speech on the far right, had accumulated three strikes in 90 days, including one on a video uploaded some eight years ago, YouTube told RWW, prompting the ban.
YouTube overturned the ban hours later. A spokesperson told HuffPost in a statement the channel “was mistakenly suspended” and that the accident was apparent upon review.
The company blamed the mistake on the sheer volume of videos the website hosts. However, as RWW said it had appealed YouTube’s decision after the ban and was rejected.
“Our efforts to expose the bigoted view and dangerous conspiracy theories spread by right-wing activists has now resulted in YouTube banning our channel and removing thousands of our videos,” the nonprofit wrote in a tweet Monday morning, before the ban was reversed. “We attempted to appeal this decision, and YouTube rejected it.”
“We are glad that by reinstating our account, YouTube recognizes our position that there is a world of difference between reporting on offensive activities and committing them,” Right Wing Watch director Adele Stan told HuffPost in an emailed statement.
“Without the ability to accurately portray dangerous behavior, meaningful journalism and public education about that behavior would cease to exist,” Stan added. “We hope this is the end of a years-long struggle with YouTube to understand the nature of our work.”
Stan also expressed frustration with YouTube’s opacity in both its rules and enforcement.
Right Wing Watch sifts through and highlights questionable content from far-right personalities like Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
The preserved clips represent an important resource, as they’re often removed by their original author, who can then later deny they made a certain claim.
That includes, for example, a 2013 video of Robertson preposterously claiming that gay men wear special rings so they can cut people when they shake hands and infect them with HIV/AIDS.
CBN erased the clip from its website and had duplicate copies removed from other hosting platforms, including YouTube, until RWW successfully argued for its restoration under fair use protections.