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    YouTube Reinstates Blocked and Demonetised Channels

    Bolta Hindustan, a Hindi YouTube news channel previously removed in April, was reinstated on the site on May 8, 2024, along with, Bolta UP, an associated channel. Haseen Rahmani, the founder of Bolta Hindustan and Bolta UP, told Medianama that YouTube had reinstated the channel itself, without him making any further appeals.  

    In an email to Rahmani, YouTube stated it had reviewed the channel once more and said, “After taking another look, we can confirm that it is not in violation of our Terms of Service.”

    YouTube Reinstates Blocked and Demonetised Channels

    Last month, Medianama reported how Bolta Hindustan had been removed from YouTube following a notice from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) asking the video hosting platform to remove the channel under sections of the 69A IT Act and Rule 15(2) IT Rules. This news was widely condemned by members of the media fraternity. DIGIPUB*, an industry of digital news organisations, characterized the move as undermining democracy and press freedom. The Press Council of India called it an “extreme action of government” that amounted to censorship.

    YouTube had stated to Medianama that the channel was removed for violating their “spam, deceptive practices, and scams policies,” specifically for allegedly circumventing an earlier ban on Bolta UP. However, Rahmani contested this claim and pointed out that Bolta Hindustan was started in 2015, significantly earlier than Bolta UP.

    “We were planning to move the Supreme Court through Digipub after the Election Commission of India did not respond to our appeals,” said Rahmani. “But they returned the channel without an appeal.” He also said he was prepared for a long struggle in the Supreme Court. He stated that he had filed an appeal to YouTube once on the 5th of April, soon after his channel was removed, but had not received a response until this month when his channel was directly returned. He had also appealed to have Bolta UP reinstated on the 21st of April, which was granted the very same day.

    Rahmani revealed that London-based magazine The Economist had reached out to both him and YouTube for a story and suggested that the global attention may be responsible for the return of his channel.

    A YouTube spokesperson told MediaNama, “Bolta Uttar Pradesh 2.0 was terminated for violating our spam, deceptive practices, & scams policies, and subsequently the associated channel Bolta Hindustan was terminated for circumvention. Upon their appeal, and after careful consideration, we’ve reinstated both channels. Sometimes our systems make mistakes, which is why we give YouTube creators the option to appeal our decision.”

    According to YouTube, their system had wrongly terminated Bolta UP for spam, also resulting in the deletion of Bolta Hindustan, an associated channel. Upon accepting Bolta UP’s appeal, they reinstated both channels.

    MediaNama had also reported on two similar news channels ‘Lokhit India’ and ‘Indus News TV’, which had been demonetized for uncertain reasons. YouTube appears to have gone back on its decision here as well, as both channels have had their monetized status returned.

    An email from YouTube to Indus News TV on the 2nd of May said that the channel was reinstated into the YouTube Partner Program (YPP), after “careful consideration” of his appeal. 

    However, Ashish Anand, Executive Editor of Indus News TV, told MediaNama that he had not appealed against his channel’s demonetization. He was also not provided a reason for the remonetisation.

    According to a YouTube spokesperson, “Creators who are suspended from the YouTube Partner Program can appeal their suspension, and after careful consideration, we’ve reinstated the channel, Indus News TV. If there are future violations of our policies, we will reevaluate and take appropriate action.”

    Ambuj Kumar, the editor of Lokhit India, confirmed to MediaNama via Whatsapp that his channel was again monetized, but was unavailable for further comments.

    A YouTube spokesperson said, “Creators who are suspended from the YouTube Partner Program can appeal their suspension, and after careful consideration, we’ve reinstated the channel, Lokhit. If there are future violations of our policies, we will reevaluate and take appropriate action.”

    According to YouTube, channels that repeatedly violate the platform’s policies are suspended from the YPP, but may reapply in 90 days.

    What was in the official notices sent by the government?

    In its initial email to Bolta Hindustan, YouTube informed Rahmani that the government had directed the platform to take down the channel under Section 69A of the IT Act read with Rule 15(2) of the IT Rules 2021. However, in a statement to MediaNama, YouTube claimed that the channel was suspended for circumventing a ban, which would go against the platform’s internal policies. 

    MediaNama had filed an RTI with the MIB and received a response stating that such blocking requests were confidential under the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009. However, Shruti Narayan, a legal expert from the advocacy group Access Now, informed Medianama, “While YouTube may be stating that the notices are confidential, nothing in the rules requires that. In fact, the rules themselves state the opposite.”   

    Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now also said, “While we do believe that the rules themselves are unconstitutional, if they require the notices to be confidential, then they are not following their own rules.”

    *Disclaimer: MediaNama is a member of DIGIPUB and was involved in the drafting of the statement.

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    The post YouTube Reinstates Blocked and Demonetised Channels appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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