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YouTube took down videos by group documenting human rights abuses in China

Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights says it was documenting abuses in Xinjiang province

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

YouTube took down several videos from a human rights organization’s channel, which was attempting to document human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province, for violating its anti-harassment policy, Reuters reported.

On June 15th, Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights said the Google-owned video platform disabled its channel entirely, telling the group it had received too many strikes against its channel for videos where people displayed identification cards showing they were related to missing Xinjiang residents. That apparently broke YouTube’s rule against displaying personal information, which led to the videos’ removal. The channel was restored three days later, according to Reuters.

YouTube reportedly asked Atajurt to cut out or conceal the IDs in the videos, but the channel’s administrator said they didn’t want to do so out of concern that such action would damage its credibility. Atajurt has been praised by organizations including Human Rights Watch for helping to expose human rights violations. According to MIT Technology Review, Atajurt posts testimonies from the family members of people detained in Chinese internment camps in Xinjiang.

Most of the videos that were removed have been restored following appeals, but some remained unviewable, and according to Reuters, Atajurt is backing up its videos on blockchain-based video platform Odysee.

A YouTube spokesperson said its harassment policy “clearly prohibits content revealing someone’s personally identifiable information, including their government identification or phone numbers,” adding that it enforces its policies “equally for everyone.” However, the spokesperson added, it recognized that the intent of posting the videos was not to “maliciously reveal” personal information. “Upon careful review of their appeal, we reinstated the channel and are working with Atajurt Kazakh to explain our policies so they can make the best decisions for their channel.”

A June 10th report from Amnesty International found that the Chinese government had conducted state-organized persecution, including torture, against people in Xinjiang provice in western China, including Uyghurs and Kazakhs. The United Nations has estimated that at least 1 million Uyghurs are being held in internment camps in China, a claim that China has disputed.

Update June 28th 8:18AM ET: Added comment from YouTube spokesperson