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YouTube Restricts Tommy Robinson’s Channel

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  • YouTube has imposed a sweeping set of restrictions on far-right figure Tommy Robinson’s channel.
  • The company has removed his content from search results, barred him from live streaming, and restricted his videos from having comments and likes, among other things.
  • The move comes after several British MPs urged YouTube’s parent company, Google, to follow Facebook and Twitter’s lead and restrict Robinsons reach on its platform.

New Restrictions

YouTube has placed a set of new restrictions on far-right figure Tommy Robinson to decrease the visibility of his channel and content.

The company is not banning him from the platform altogether, but according to a Buzzfeed News report, YouTube has removed Robinson’s video from search results and is prohibiting him from live streaming, something he did once or twice a week on his channel.

Robinson’s content also won’t have suggested videos, likes, or comments and a black slate will appear before each one warning viewers that the material may be inappropriate or offensive.

This warning currently precedes all content on Tommy Robinson’s channel.

“After consulting with third-party experts, we are applying a tougher treatment to Tommy Robinson’s channel in keeping with our policies on borderline content,” a YouTube spokesperson said.

Why?

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is one of the most high-profile far-right figures in the UK. He recently became the figurehead of the anti-immigration party UKIP, which eventually prompted former leader Nigel Farage to leave the party and denounce it as “obsessed with Islam.”

YouTube already demonetized Robinson’s channel in January, but its parent company, Google, has faced mounting pressure from politicians in the UK who have urged them to restrict Robinsons reach and social impact.

Other social platforms have already taken steps to restrict Robinson. Twitter banned him in March 2018 for breaching its hateful conduct policy. Facebook then banned him in February of this year for targeting Muslims with “dehumanizing language” and “calls for violence.”

Deputy leader of the Labour party Tom Watson wrote a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai in March asking that Robinson be removed as a “matter of urgency.”

I have recently been making the argument that the social media companies have failed to regulate hate speech and harm on their platforms,” Watson wrote. “I would ask that you immediately close down all of Yaxley-Lennon’s sites on YouTube before the virus of his views grooms countless more followers via your platform.”

According to Watson, after Robinson was removed from Facebook, his followers were transferring their “virulent hate” over to YouTube. Watson even cited a 30,000 increase in subscribers on Robinson’s channel after he was banned from Facebook.

Despite all the restrictions, Robinson has still found ways to communicate with his following. He now sends out regular updates through email and recently announced that he has set-up a new Snapchat account.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Mashable) (Buzzfeed News)

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Influencer Accused of Staging Motorcycle Crash for Photoshoot

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  • Social media influencer Tiffany Mitchell is catching heat for posting photos to Instagram that show her having seemingly fallen off of a motorcycle after misjudging a curve.
  • Many are accusing her of staging the accident for a photo-op and are saying the photos were sponsored because one of them prominently displays a Smartwater bottle.
  • Mitchell has denied both claims and said she didn’t know her friend was taking the photos but added that she was happy the fallout of her accident was documented.

The Post of the Crash

A social media influencer is denying claims that she faked a motorcycle crash and used it as an opportunity to take photos for Instagram.

In late July, Tiffany Mitchell posted a series of photos from her crash which she says happened in Leipers Fork just outside of Nashville. The post quickly drew the ire of many who accused it of looking too perfect.

In the post, Mitchell described the accident as a “scary, magical series of events.” She explained she misjudged a curve, hitting the pavement as her bike slid into the grass. She also said she had been wearing a helmet.

Source: @tifforelie

“I was scared, and relieved, and so thankful I could move all my joints and that I never lost consciousness,” Mitchell wrote. “My friends were at my side immediately, an ambulance arrived within 10 minutes (CRAZY fast), and sweet strangers loaded my bike onto their trailer to haul it back to my house for me. I was in a haze the entire time.”

One of the photos shows a man tending to her, a helmet placed on the side of the road, and another motorcycle propped up in the background just out of focus. 

Source: @tifforelie

Another photo shows minor scrapes over the tattoo on her shoulder as that same man holds onto her.

Source: @tifforelie

In another, critics point to a prominently displayed bottle of Smartwater, which many suggested may have been part of a sponsorship.

Source: @tifforelie

Online Response

Many people flooded Mitchell’s personal Instagram and other social media platforms like Reddit to speculate about the authenticity of the photos. 

“They’re lit like a paperback romance cover, and the water just appears between shots with the label in crystal-clear focus,” one Reddit user wrote. “What, did her friend sneak over and pose the bottle then scamper back out of frame? NO oil on the ground. NO damaged tire. Give me an effing break.”

Others called her out for seemingly glamorizing her accident.

“We had a very close family friend die in a motorcycle accident,” a Reddit user wrote. “A lot of people have. This is fucking gross. The fact that it’s clearly fake makes it grosser, because they had to come up with it, execute it, then post it. So many opportunities to not make a terrible decision.”

In her post, Mitchell also mentioned losing her boyfriend in a motorcycle accident three years ago

“It brought back a lot of memories from 3 years ago when Kappel died,” she wrote, “and I in utter devastation had to decide how to move through it all, and whether it was worth it to ever get on a bike again.” 

Nonetheless, many online criticized her for what they said was making light of the type of accident that killed her boyfriend. 

“What the fuck?!?!?!!!!! Her bf dies in a motorcycle accident but apparently when she has an accident (if she really did) it’s an opportunity to take pics and get sponsored?!” another Redditor posted. “NOT EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS A PHOTO OPP Jesus Christ.” 

Mitchell Responds to Backlash

Following the backlash, Mitchell then archived her post. The move also came after Buzzfeed News reached out to her for comment. She reportedly asked Buzzfeed not to run the story because it would “draw negative attention,” but it ultimately ran the story anyway.

Monday, Mitchell posted an Instagram story talking about the article and the negative reaction she’s seen since it was published.

“I’m really sad that what I shared inspired anything negative at all,” she said. “You know, I was really, really touched by those moments that happened.” 

She continued, saying she didn’t know her friend had been taking pictures after she crashed. She also said her friend had not started taking photos until after checking to make sure Mitchell was okay.

Later, when Mitchell’s friend showed her the photos, Mitchell said she wasn’t mad they had been taken.

“She would have never done anything with those photos before showing me,” Mitchell said, “and when she showed me, I was so grateful for them. You know, she didn’t know. Maybe, I would have been offended. ‘How could you take’ That’s not how I felt. When she showed me the photos, I was genuinely grateful because having a moment that was that intense documented, I appreciate that.” 

Regarding the Smartwater bottle controversy, she said her post was not sponsored and someone had actually just brought it to her. Smartwater has not made any public comments on the matter.

Mitchell said she was shocked and had a lot of emotions running through her mind, but ultimately, said she wanted to share the moment.

“I archived the post because if there is a lot of attention brought to my feed because of that, I don’t want to leave that really vulnerable thing that I care a lot about that I shared open to any kind of hatred,” she said. “You know, I want to protect that. I want to protect that moment.” 

See what others are saying: (INSIDER) (Independent) (Cosmopolitan)

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Instagram Couple Apologizes for Disrespectful Post at Bali Temple

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  • Czech Instagram influencers Sabina Dolezalova and Zdenek Sloukat apologized after posting a video that showed Slouka splashing Dolezalova’s butt with holy water at the Beji Temple in Bali’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
  • The post received backlash after it was re-uploaded by a Balinese senator, with many calling the couple’s actions disrespectful.
  • Slouka and Dolezalova later posted a second video apologizing for the incident and said they did not realize the water and the temple were holy.

Backlash in Bali

Two influencers apologized after receiving backlash for posting a video of themselves playing with holy water at a temple in Bali.

The now-deleted video was posted by Czech fitness influencers Sabina Dolezalova and Zdenek Sloukat at a temple in Bali’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud.

In the video, Dolezalova bent over and lifted her skirt while Slouka splashed holy water on her butt.

The couple came under fire for the video after Balinese senator Arya Wedakarna reuploaded the video on his Instagram account saying it was “insensitive” and that the influencers were “harassing” the temple.

Many people reacted to the post, condemning the couple for disrespecting Bali’s culture and calling for them to be kicked out of the country.

“This is completely insensitive to local culture,” one user wrote. “Before you travel to another country you should read up on local culture and educate yourself.”

Apology Video

Dolezalova and Slouka posted a video apologizing for the stunt, which Wedakarna also shared on his Instagram along with a screenshot of a private message Dolezalova sent him apologizing for the incident.

“We are so sorry about the video from yesterday,” Slouka said in the video. “We dishonored the holy temple and holy water in Ubud and we didn’t know it. So we are so sorry about what happened and apologize to you.”

“We had no idea that was some holy water or that there is a holy temple so we really didn’t want to do anything bad,” Dolezalova added. “We are so truly sorry and we hope you gonna forgive us, and now we are just finding what we can do to fix it.”

But the outrage did not end there. Some responded to the apology video saying that it seemed insincere or fake. 

Others who spoke Czech pointed out that the influencers must have known it was holy water because the person filming the video told them it was.

“They knew very well it was holy water the woman filming this says it out and loud,” one user wrote.

“You apologized just because you got caught,” another user said.

Comments on Arya Wedakarna’s Instagram account.

Bali Responds

After the video went viral, Bali’s governor Wayan Koster announced that the government would do more to protect holy sites from tourists.

“In the future, if there are tourists behaving like that we should just send them home, they are being disorderly coming to Bali,” he said in a statement. “We will give them this warning.”

According to The Telegraph, the couple tried to make amends with the people of Bali by participating in “a ritual purification ceremony where they wore traditional clothes and touched pressed hands to their heads as a show of respect.”

Wedakarna argued that the ritual should be mandatory for tourists who publicly disrespect Bali in the future.

“They made a mistake sullying our island,” he told reporters. “Anyone who violates our traditions must take part in a purification ritual.”

Dolezalova’s manager also told the Czech site Sezman that the situation had been resolved.

“Sabina and her friends are continuing on holiday as planned,” he said. “A voluntary contribution was proposed to the local village. Whatever amount Sabina and her friends give, it is up to them and purely voluntary.”

See what others are saying: (The Independent) (VICE) (Yahoo News)

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Creators File Lawsuit Against YouTube Over Alleged LGBTQ+ Discrimination

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  • A group of LGBTQ+ creators have filed a lawsuit against YouTube and Google claiming that YouTube flags, suppresses, and demonetizes LGBTQ+ videos.
  • The lawsuit claims YouTube restricts content featuring certain LGBTQ+ tags such as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “transgender.”
  • YouTube has denied such claims in the past but has not responded specifically to the lawsuit. 

The Lawsuit Against YouTube and Google

Several LGBTQ+ creators are suing YouTube and its parent company Google for allegedly discriminating against LGBTQ+ content on YouTube. 

Among the accusations, the creators claim YouTube restricts recommendations, demonetizes, and alters the thumbnails of LGBTQ+ videos. 

Creators Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers of BriaAndChrissy, Amp Somers of Watts The Safeword, Chase Ross, Linsday Amer, Chris Knight, Celso Dulay, and Cameron Stiehl all filed the class-action lawsuit Tuesday in San Jose, California.

“Our LGBTQ+ content is being demonetized, restricted, and not sent out to viewers which has highly affected our ability to reach the community we strongly want to help,” Chambers said in a video posted the same day.

In the suit, Kam and Chambers argue that their channel previously earned about $3,500 each month but now only generates about $400-500 monthly. 

After posting a music video called “Face Your Fears,” Kam and Chambers said the video was categorized under “restricted mode.” The video was filmed as a dedication to the 2016 Orlando Pulse Shooting, and it features Bria and Chrissy kissing in front of anti-gay protesters.

“They flagged our pride,” YouTuber Chase Ross said. “They did not allow us to buy ads. They restricted us, they demonetized us, and they did not stand up for us.” 

Last year, Ross, who often posts about trans issues, accused YouTube of age-gating his videos for including the word “transgender” in the titles.

Growing up, I was in a very religious household,” said Amp Somers of the sex education channel Watts The Safeword. “I didn’t get any sort of gay education, alone queer education, that applied to me and the sex I was going to have. I created content on the internet that I wish I would have had growing up, but we’re finding it harder and harder to create content on this platform. Google and YouTube continue to censor us and tell us that we’re not breaking any rules but that our content is still not allowed and going to be restricted on this platform.” 

YouTube Content Selection and Enforcement

The creators also claim YouTube is restricting LGBTQ+ content featuring words like  “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” “transgender,” or “queer.” Notably, YouTube does not publish its algorithm, which can make it hard to tell if your content is actually being suppressed. 

While a YouTube spokesperson replied with “no comment” to the lawsuit, YouTube has denied similar claims in the past. Last week, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki pushed back against claims that videos are demonetized for falling under LGBTQ+ categories.

In an interview with vlogger Alfie Deyes, she said, “We do not automatically demonetize LGBTQ content… We work incredibly hard to make sure that our systems are fair.”

She also said YouTube does not have a policy to demonetize a video if it has a certain word in the title, and said both the process for recommending videos and determining ads are independent of each other.

On Wednesday morning, after news of the lawsuit spread, Wojcicki posted Deyes’ Aug. 4 video on Twitter, though it’s unclear if the timing is related.

Another part of the lawsuit says because YouTube is the largest video streaming website, it holds a near-monopoly.

The suit states YouTube “used their monopoly power over content regulation to selectively apply their rules and restrictions in a manner that allowed them to gain an unfair advantage to profit from their own content to the detriment of its consumers.”

The creators use the argument to claim YouTube “goes easy” on some of its biggest creators and cite content from James Charles, an issue that has also been raised in the past with YouTubers like Logan Paul and Felix Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie.

“[YouTube] continue[s] to restrain the innocuous travel videos of Watts The Safeword under its Restricted Mode, age restrictions, and demonetization rules and practices, while allowing objectively and sexually explicit content that Google/YouTube sponsor and/or profit from to run unrestricted on the YouTube platform,” the suit alleges.

It continues by citing examples from a recent video on the beauty YouTuber’s channel showing him wearing a G-string and spanking a woman’s bare butt while at Coachella.

Even though Watts The Safeword features more mature content, the channel says it personally applies the restricted mode filter to its more sexually explicit videos. 

According to the Washington Post, “eleven current and past moderators, who have worked on the front lines of content decisions, believe that popular creators often get special treatment in the form of looser interpretations of YouTube’s guidelines prohibiting demeaning speech, bullying and other forms of graphic content.”

YouTube has also denied those claims.

Response

Following this lawsuit, many online said they were standing with the creators suing YouTube and Google.

Some on Twitter even shared their own experiences trying to generate LGBTQ+ content on YouTube.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Washington Post) (Business Insider)

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