After left-wing media watchdog Right Wing Watch had been informed that its channel had been permanently suspended from YouTube on Monday morning, the online video platform reversed course hours later and reinstated the channel.
“Right Wing Watch’s YouTube channel was mistakenly suspended, but upon further review, has now been reinstated,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Monday afternoon. The social-media site also suggested that the issue was a mistake due to high volume of content and that they attempted to move quickly to undo the ban.
Right Wing Watch also confirmed that YouTube informed the site on Monday afternoon that their channel was back online.
“We are glad that by reinstating our account, YouTube recognizes our position that there is a world of difference between reporting on offensive activities and committing them,” Right Wing Watch director Adele Stan said in a statement after the reinstatement. “Without the ability to accurately portray dangerous behavior, meaningful journalism and public education about that behavior would cease to exist.”
Stan added, “We hope this is the end of a years-long struggle with YouTube to understand the nature of our work. We also hope the platform will become more transparent about the process it uses to determine whether a user has violated its rules, which has always been opaque and has led to frustrating and inexplicable decisions and reversals such as the one we experienced today. We remain dedicated to exposing threatening and harmful activities on the Far Right and we are glad to have YouTube again available to us to continue our work.”
According to screenshots posted by RWW on Monday morning, the Google-owned video platform informed the group that their official YouTube channel would be permanently removed from the site due to numerous violations of its community guidelines.
Right Wing Watch appealed the suspension, which was also denied by YouTube, with the social-media site again claiming that the watchdog group—which monitors disinformation, conspiracies, and violent rhetoric from far-right media outlets and personalities—was in violation of its guidelines and terms of service.
Meanwhile, many of the far-right extremists merely exposed by RWW remain on the platform.
“Our efforts to expose the bigoted view and dangerous conspiracy theories spread by right-wing activists has now resulted in @YouTube banning our channel and removing thousands of our videos,” Right Wing Watch wrote on Monday. “We attempted to appeal this decision, and YouTube rejected it.”
Right Wing Watch senior fellow Kyle Mantyla told The Daily Beast that this had been an ongoing problem with YouTube for years, despite their efforts to make clear to the platform that their videos worked to expose extremism and contained disclaimers to that effect.
He also noted that the issues with YouTube had escalated over the past year, as the platform has tried to crack down on COVID-19 misinformation and election-related conspiracies, roping in much of RWW’s efforts to expose this type of rhetoric.
Mantyla said that YouTube recently gave the RWW channel—which has roughly 60,000 subscribers—two strikes in April over videos it posted, prompting the watchdog to refrain from posting more content to the site until the strikes dropped off after 90 days. (Right Wing Watch had largely relied on rival platform Vimeo to host its videos in the meantime.)
“And then they found some video from eight years ago that they flagged, took that down, and that was our third strike,” he explained. “And they took down our entire account.”
According to Mantyla, the third strike occurred last week and the channel was taken down at that point. Notification that their appeal was rejected, however, wasn’t sent until early Monday morning, when Right Wing Watch went public about the ban.
Right Wing Watch is run by the nonprofit organization People For the American Way, which was initially founded in 1981 as a liberal counterpoint to the conservative Christian group Moral Majority.
Launched in 2007, Right Wing Watch has posted thousands of clips of prominent right-wing figures making controversial comments, perhaps most famously including televangelist Pat Robertson and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. In fact, Right Wing Watch’s exposure of Jones’ false and conspiratorial rhetoric was key to YouTube and other social-media platforms eventually removing his channel InfoWars from their sites.
Notably, many of the right-wing outlets and personalities that Right Wing Watch chronicles are not currently suspended or banned from posting content to YouTube, while RWW has been booted for merely exposing their comments and content—something Mantyla noted as being particularly ironic.
“The number of times our video has gotten flagged and removed and the video from which we took it is still up on YouTube, you’re just like, well, something is wrong with your system here,” he declared.
Other sites and reporters specializing in reporting on right-wing disinformation and extremism have also occasionally run into problems with YouTube’s uneven policies against hate speech and offensive content.
For instance, independent journalist Ford Fischer, who documents activism and extremism, was informed in June 2019 that his channel had been demonetized (no longer eligible to receive ad revenue) due to repeated violations of the site’s policies.
While Right Wing Watch had essentially moved away from regularly posting its videos to YouTube over the past year, as Mantyla noted, the deletion of the site’s channel erases a deep, years-long archive of video clips—effectively eliminating a resource for understanding and exposing right-wing extremism.