REPORT: YouTube Removes Xinjiang Human Rights Advocacy Videos, Forcing Account Off The Platform

(Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Lacey Kestecher Contributor
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A YouTube account exposing human rights stories of family members that have gone missing in Xinjiang said they have had multiple videos removed from the streaming platform, according to a Friday report.

The channel — Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights — is now transferring its videos to Odysee, a smaller video-streaming site, to avoid further censorship, according to Reuters. Atajurt has downloaded nearly 975 videos onto Odysee.

Twelve out of the channel’s almost 11,000 videos were initially blocked for violating YouTube’s cyberbullying and harassment policy on June 15, according to the report. While some of the videos were unblocked after the channel made an appeal, YouTube did not immediately explain why some continued to be restricted, the report added.

YouTube then removed Atajurt due to violations of displaying personal identity information, the report said. Those videos contained clips of people showing their personal IDs to confirm their relationship to the family member who claimed to have disappeared, according to Reuters.

The channel wrote on Twitter, “we lost everything. The results of our nation’s five years of hard work vanished overnight.”

Despite the channel’s reinstatement on June 18, Atajurt’s administrators were unwilling to lose their videos’ credibility by abiding by YouTube’s request to blur the identity cards.

“There is another excuse every day. I never trusted YouTube,” Serikzhan Bilash, one of the channel’s founders, said to Reuters. “We’re not afraid anymore, because we are backing ourselves up with LBRY. The most important thing is our material’s safety.”

While transferring the videos, the channel was alerted that YouTube hid videos from the public which were already under question, according to Reuters. The message claimed that the videos promoted criminal organizations. YouTube said that the message was automated.

Atajurt speculated that the channel was automatically blocked by the combined effort of groups who reject China’s human rights abuses, according to the report. The videos were shared in social media groups with instructions on how to report them to YouTube — resulting in many reports, and eventually a block. (RELATED: ‘We Are Very Free’: Multiple Clips From China’s Xinjiang Region Appear To Be Eerily Similar)

Bilash had previously relied on YouTube to preserve the channels’ videos after facing threats from the Kazakhstan government.

Bilash said, “The day YouTube deactivated our channel, I felt I’d lost everything in the world … the new channel does not have so many subscribers, but it is safe.”