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September 18, 2021
International Tech World

YouTube Suspends Conservative News Channel in Australia Over Virus Misinformation

YouTube has suspended the conservative news channel Sky News Australia for a week for breaching the platform’s coronavirus misinformation policy.

The broadcaster, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and has nearly 2 million subscribers on YouTube, is not allowed to upload new videos for the duration of its suspension, which began Thursday. Existing videos on its account can still be viewed.

In a statement to The New York Times on Monday, YouTube said it had removed Sky News videos and issued a strike against the broadcaster in accordance with policies “to prevent the spread of coronavirus information that could cause real-world harm.”

This is the first strike for Sky News. If it receives three strikes within 90 days, its YouTube channel will be permanently deleted.

The statement did not specify what content was removed.

Sky News said in a statement on its website Sunday that the suspension had resulted from “a review of old videos published to the channel,” and that it “acknowledges YouTube’s right to enforce its policies.”

An opinion piece published by Sky News on Sunday criticized the suspension as an “assault on freedom of thought” and said that some of the removed videos had featured debates over the efficacy of masks and lockdowns.

Lockdowns have been a contentious topic in Australia, where two of the largest cities are under stay-at-home orders amid growing clusters of the more contagious delta variant of the virus. Brisbane began a three-day lockdown Saturday after six cases were discovered, and on Monday it was extended until Sunday. In Sydney, where an outbreak of the delta variant has grown to more than 3,500 cases, 300 soldiers are patrolling the streets to enforce a lockdown that is in its sixth week.

Officials say the lockdowns are necessary because not enough Australians have been inoculated against COVID-19. Only 15% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.

The Sky News suspension came on the same day it was reported that The Daily Telegraph, a Sydney tabloid that is also owned by News Corp., had dropped a weekly column by Sky News commentator Alan Jones.

In a segment on his Sky News show last month, Jones and Craig Kelly, an Australian lawmaker and conspiracy theorist, falsely claimed that the delta variant was less deadly than the original form of the coronavirus and that people who had been vaccinated were more likely to die from the virus. Sky News subsequently retracted the segment and issued a correction.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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