Technology

How YouTube’s rules were used to suppress human rights activists

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For more than a week, the corner of YouTube frequented by Kazakh dissidents and those who closely follow human rights in Xinjiang has only appeared intermittently.

June 15th, YouTube channel The “Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights” channel was blacked out and its video source was replaced by a vague statement that the channel has been “terminated for violating YouTube community guidelines.” A few days later, the channel resumed without public explanation. Then, a few days later, the 12 earliest videos of the channel disappeared from its public feed.

Atajurt collects and publishes video testimonies from the families of people detained in detention camps in Xinjiang, China. To ensure the credibility of these video statements, each public testimony shows the identification of the testimony and the detained relatives. Serikzhan Bilash, a well-known Kazakh activist and owner of the channel, said this also highlights the integrity of the organization.

Atajurt collected thousands of video testimonies from family members of Turkic Muslims who disappeared in Xinjiang. Witnesses show their identities to prove that they are real people.

Accuracy is especially important, not only because of the lack of information from Xinjiang, but also because the testimony is often criticized by supporters of the Chinese Communist Party-Bilash said they are looking for any excuse to deny what the United Nations is doing.Gross violation of human rights“In the province.

After Atajurt’s release, the information in the video was subsequently used by other organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Xinjiang Victims Database, Which records the place of detention, the most affected communities, and missing individuals. A representative of the Xinjiang Victims Database told MIT Science and Technology Review that their project was linked to the Atajurt video “thousands of times.”

For many years, these videos dating back to 2018 have not been a problem, at least not from YouTube’s point of view. Things changed last week.

“Comprehensive review”

“We have Strict policy Harassment on YouTube, including human flesh searches, is prohibited,” a YouTube representative told MIT Technology Review on Friday, before adding, “We welcome responsible efforts to document important human rights cases around the world.we still have policy Disallow channel posting Personally identifiable information To prevent harassment. ”

Some videos, such as this one, were forcibly made private by YouTube after being reported as violating its “violent criminal organization” policy.

They were probably referring to the identity document displayed by Atajurt, which was used to confirm the authenticity of people’s testimony.

However, shortly after MIT Technology Review sent YouTube a list of issues to be deleted on June 15 and a broader content review policy, YouTube changed its position. A company representative wrote in an email: “After thoroughly reviewing the background of the video,” it resumed the channel and “issued a warning.” “We… are working closely with the organization so that they can delete personally identifiable information from their videos to restore them.”

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