YouTube Blocks Channel Highlighting China's Human Rights Violations

June 25th, 2021 6:12 PM

A video channel dedicated to highlighting human rights violations in China has been blocked by YouTube.

Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights channel is run by Serikzhan Bilash, a Xinjiang-born activist who has been arrested for his pro-freedom activism several times. Government advisors warned him against using the word “genocide” to describe the abuses in Xinjiang.

"They're just facts," Bilash told Reuters, referring to the content of Atajurt's videos. "The people giving the testimonies are talking about their loved ones."

The channel has been very successful and has published nearly 11,000 videos on YouTube with over 120 million views since 2017. The videos feature thousands of people speaking about relatives who have disappeared without a trace in the Xinjiang region. 

Reuters reports that on June 15, the channel was blocked for violating YouTube's terms of service after numerous videos were reported for violating the platform’s vague “cyberbullying and harassment' policy.”

While the channel appealed the blocking of the videos and had some reinstated, YouTube did not provide an explanation for its decision.

To protect against further blocks by YouTube, the creators of the channel are backing up its content to Odysee, a website designed to give creators more control. Approximately 975 videos have been moved to the new channel so far.

Meanwhile, YouTube says the videos were only blocked because they contained personal information.

"We welcome responsible efforts to document important human rights cases around the world," the platform said. "We recognize that the intention of these videos was not to maliciously reveal [personal information] ... and are working with Atajurt Kazakh to explain our policies."

However, Bilash says the platform’s reasoning is just “another excuse.”

"There is another excuse every day. I never trusted YouTube," Bilash said. "But we're not afraid anymore, because we are backing ourselves up...The most important thing is our material's safety."

"We will never delete it," Bilash concluded, referring to the channel’s global efforts.

"The day YouTube deactivated our channel, I felt I'd lost everything in the world… the new channel does not have so many subscribers," he said of the Odysee channel, "but it is safe."

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