YouTube Suspends Sky News Australia Over COVID Misinformation

YouTube has suspended Sky News Australia from its platform for a week, claiming the network had spread COVID-19 misinformation and violated its community policies.

The suspension was imposed on Thursday after the social media company reviewed several posts, which questioned whether there was a pandemic and the efficacy of vaccines, uploaded by the TV channel.

Its clips were shared with the YouTube channel's 1.8 million-strong following, while its commentators enjoy a conservative following beyond Australia.

In a statement obtained by The Guardian, YouTube said: "We have clear and established COVID-19 medical misinformation prevent the spread of COVID-19 misinformation that could cause real-world harm.

"We apply our policies equally for everyone regardless of uploader, and in accordance with these policies and our long-standing strikes system, removed videos from and issued a strike to Sky News Australia's channel."

It concluded: "Specifically, we don't allow content that denies the existence of COVID-19 or that encourages people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus. We do allow for videos that have sufficient countervailing context, which the violative videos did not provide."

In a statement obtained by AFP, Sky News Australia said "we support broad discussion and debate on a wide range of topics and perspectives which is vital to any democracy."

"We take our commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously."

In an additional statement sent to Newsweek: "YouTube responded to media requests mentioning its 'denial of COVID-19' policies but it later dropped that reference in future media statements.

"Sky News Australia expressly rejects that any host has ever denied the existence of COVID-19 as was implied, and no such videos were ever published or removed."

Newsweek has contacted YouTube for comment.

Sky News Australia's last upload on July 28 featured host Alan Jones, 80, criticizing lockdowns and attacking stay-at-home orders in Sydney, the country's largest city.

Two days prior, Jones also railed against chief medical adviser to the president Dr. Anthony Fauci's COVID guidance to U.S. states that he and his team are "on the left side of politics."

In its community guidelines section, YouTube explains its "three-strike" policy in which the first results in a one-week ban where the channel will be unable to upload videos, live streams, or stories.

Following the lifting of the suspension, access will be restored, but the strike remains on the channel for 90 days.

Should a user violate the conditions again in that 90-day period then a second strike will be issued, which results in a two-week suspension and again the strikes will not expire for 90 days.

A third and final strike is issued if a violation happens in those 90 days where the channel will be permanently removed from YouTube.

YouTube suspended Sky News Australia over what it called "COVID-19 medical misinformation." Here, the YouTube logo is seen outside the YouTube Space studios in London, taken on June 4, 2019. Olly Curtis/Future/Getty Images