Censored broadcast: Are YouTube’s policies discriminating against Palestinians?

This statement was originally published on 7amleh.org on 27 April 2020.

The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media released a new research report about YouTube’s violations of Palestinian digital rights. This research is part of a series that focuses on violations of Palestinian digital rights and digital discrimination against Palestinians by international technology companies.

YouTube is the most important and popular platform for sharing video content, and the second most popular platform in Palestine. As the platform is increasing in popularity, the impact of YouTube’s policies is revealing how their policies and practices are leading to violations of Palestinians’ digital rights. The research asked “How are YouTube’s policies and practices consistent with human rights in general, and Palestinian digital rights in specific; and how are YouTube’s policies and practices applied to the Palestinian digital content.” Furthermore, it explores which criteria are applied in deciding which content by Palestinians to include or exclude.

The research employs interpretive qualitative research methods and included literature review and in-depth interviews with human rights defenders, activists and journalists. The research found that (1) the definition of violence is unclear, causing the removal of many Palestinian videos, (2) policies discriminatory against Palestinians, such as spatial discrimination, surveillance, and punishment by stopping channels and withholding monetization, and resulting from this (3) Palestinian feelings of exclusion, discrimination, isolation, anger, and disappointment, and (4) the development of coping strategies and techniques to resist these discriminatory practices.

Finally, the research concludes with recommendations for YouTube and governments to ensure clarity, transparency, equality and fairness in YouTube’s content policies, including ensuring equal access to information, clarification of policies and guidelines, reducing the use of erroneous artificial intelligence to monitor Palestinian content, enabling an appeals process and publishing transparency reports.

Dr. Amal Nazzal, the researcher, stated “This research is a call to encourage collaboration and mobilization at the international, and in particular the Palestinian, levels to show how YouTube violates Palestinian rights and to resist this. Counter to YouTube’s promise to be a space where every user has equal rights of participating and belonging, this research reveals how YouTube’s policies and practices are biased and discriminate against Palestinians. This discrimination includes techniques of high-surveillance, which lead to incidents of exclusion, isolation, and demotivation.”

This research will be a part of 7amleh’s Palestine Digital Activism Forum Webinar Series. The webinar, “YouTube, Palestinians and Digital Discrimination” will be held on Wednesday, April 29th at 6pm Palestine Time on Zoom and Facebook live. It will include discussion about the new research and its global implications. Dr. Amal Nazzal, Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies and lead researcher, Dia Kayyali, Program Manager-Tech + Advocacy at WITNESS.org, Barbara Dockalova and Gabrielle Guillemin from Article19 will take part, and the discussion will be facilitated by 7amleh’s International Relations Manager, Alison Carmel.

Download the full report here.

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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