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26 October 2021

Why did YouTube delete Novara Media’s channel?

The left-wing media outlet had its popular channel taken down for two hours without explanation.

By Sarah Manavis

What happened to Novara Media’s YouTube channel? 

On Tuesday morning (26 October), Novara Media released a statement saying that its YouTube channel had been taken down “without warning or explanation”.

Novara Media is among the top 50 most watched news and politics channels in the UK,” the statement read. “We play an important public service role… We call on YouTube to immediately reinstate our account.”

Did YouTube say why?

No. Though it’s not unheard of to delete an account for a single extreme offence (such as publishing child abuse), YouTube typically warns channels if their account is going to be deleted, and operates a “three strikes, you’re out” policy, in which the rules can be broken twice, but not a third time. However, Novara says it did not receive a strike beforehand.

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What does Novara’s YouTube channel publish?

Novara is a left-wing British news site founded in 2011, and its YouTube channel typically contains a combination of interviews with political figures, commentary on UK politics, policy explainers and group discussions between its editors and contributors on topical debates.

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How popular is the channel? 

It has 167,000 subscribers and over 40 million views. 

Is there a good reason why YouTube might have done this?

No. Novara’s channel – while explicitly left-leaning – has not shared a video in the last several weeks that would trigger a sudden deletion. Novara is also regulated by the independent organisation Impress, which arguably holds Novara to a higher standard of journalistic standards than YouTube’s terms and conditions.

Is Novara’s channel back up now? 

Yes. After two hours of public outcry – including from right-wing outlets and commentators, such as Guido Fawkes and Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges – the account was reinstated, at around 1:30pm on Tuesday afternoon, the same day. 

So why did YouTube do this? 

It’s not entirely clear. A YouTube spokesperson told the New Statesman: “Novara Media’s channel was briefly removed after it was flagged, but upon review, it was then immediately reinstated. We work quickly to review all flagged content, but with millions of hours of video uploaded on YouTube every day, on occasion we make the wrong call.” YouTube did not give details as to why the account was initially flagged.

What does this mean for the media’s relationship with Big Tech? 

Even if it was a mistake, it is concerning that one of the UK’s biggest left-leaning media voices could be erased from a major platform so abruptly. In the past two years, Big Tech has been increasingly scrutinised for the power it holds over a free and fair press, and this incident should serve as a reminder of the outsize influence online platforms have in deciding whose voices are the most valuable in the digital media landscape.

[See also: Bertrand Russell, YouTube star]

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