Ahead of a crucial vote on Article 13 in Europe, it seems that YouTube has already begun blocking perfectly legal channels on its site.
The vote has yet to take place. In fact, it is scheduled to take place as early as tomorrow. Unfortunately, the damaging effects free speech advocates warned about are already being felt.
Reports are surfacing that channels that offer perfectly legal content are being blocked. Among the first hit is a French political party the National Rally. In it’s place is a notice that the channel violated copyright laws. Ironically, the political party previously supported the laws.
The party leader, Marine Le Pen, blasted the move, saying that the move is “arbitrary, political, and unilateral” and that “This measure is completely false; we can easily assert a right of quotation [to illustrate why the material was well within the law to broadcast].”
Of course, the blocking of channels extends far beyond political videos. Channels like MIT and the Blender Foundation have also been hit. From Tom’s Hardware:
Over the past several days, other YouTube channels have been taken down by YouTube’s algorithms, despite the fact that these channels appear to be legal at first glance. The MIT OpenCourseWare team said that they’re are trying to get to the bottom of this issue and told their followers on Twitter to “stand by.”
The Blender Foundation, which develops the open source 3D content creation tool “Blender,” also had its videos blocked. Ton Roosendaal, Chairman of the Blender Foundation, said he contacted YouTube about this on Saturday but hasn’t gotten a proper response yet.
Other verified YouTube accounts, such as India’s Press Information Bureau, soccer club Sparta Praha, and England Rugby were also blocked. YouTube hasn’t yet made a statement about what could be causing these seemingly erroneous takedowns. The channels show the message that usually appears only when the content has been restricted to certain countries, except it’s now appearing for everyone.
The move appears to be point blank censorship of a somewhat random nature. In fact, it is precisely what the United Nations warned about earlier. With little in terms of redress and the potential for mass censorship, there is a lot to be concerned about according to the UN free speech report on Article 13.
The sentiment is also echoed by innovators and Internet founders who submitted a joint letter to condemn the proposed laws. They argue that it will pull the Internet away from its open nature into one that is much more restrictive.
Digital rights activists, of course, have spent weeks putting pressure on lawmakers to “delete Article 13, saying that it would kill memes, and damage free speech across the Internet.
This latest move shows that not only are these predictions are coming true, but are happening even before the law has been voted on. It doesn’t take much to visualize this being just the tip of the censorship iceberg as well. After all, there is a reason why advocates are calling this the “censorship machine”.