Youtube suspended investigative news outfit Bellingcat’s channel for a number of hours this morning without warning.
Eliot Higgins, founder and editor of Bellingcat, told Press Gazette he was not aware of any warnings about the ban prior to being sent an email from the video sharing site at about 7.30am notifying him of it.
The Bellingcat channel was only restored at about 11.30am after protests from Higgins and other journalists, including Channel 4 News international editor Lindsey Hilsum who declared the move “crazy” in a tweet.
Youtube, which is owned by Google, said in its email that the account had committed “repeated or severe violations” of its community guidelines and pointed to the “promotion or display of gratuitous violence”.
Higgins told Press Gazette the Bellingcat channel, which has 1,600 subscribers, hosted videos used in its online articles and that there was not much in the way of graphic content.
He said prior to the ban being lifted that he had not received any information about which video or videos had violated guidelines and that a permanent ban had been “quite a strong response”.
Youtube later said the channel had been wrongfully terminated.
Higgins said: “I think I’m fortunate that it was restored so quickly, others might not have been so lucky, but I’m glad they responded so quickly.”
Bellingcat’s articles revealing the true identities of the Russian spies behind the Salisbury Novichok poisoning last year helped grow its reputation as an international investigative journalism outfit.
Channel 4 News international editor Lindsey Hilsum tweeted earlier: “Bellingcat is an essential source and tool for journalists investigating Syria, Russia, suspicious plane crashes and all manner of important events. It’s crazy that Youtube has suspended its channel.”
Ironically, Higgins said Bellingcat had been funded by Google money to create an archive of films from the Syrian conflict so there would be a back up in case they were taken down online.
He said he personally had met with both Google and Youtube in the US and that both are aware of Bellingcat.
Youtube said that “upon review” the suspension of Bellingcat’s channel “was confirmed to be a mistaken removal and the channel is now reinstated”.