YouTube took down a coronavirus conspiracy theory video for violating its rules, but it's making money through ads on reuploads
Reuploads of the video have millions of views overall
Update (5/1/20): After publication, YouTube removed more than three dozen of the reuploads identified in Media Matters' review, including every video specifically shown in this article, replacing them all with a message saying, “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”
YouTube has allowed ads to run on -- and thus is making revenue from -- multiple reuploads of a viral video pushing conspiracy theories about the coronavirus that it had taken down for violating its own policies.
On April 16, YouTube conspiracy theory channel The Next News Network uploaded a video featuring discredited osteopath Dr. Rashid Buttar in which he pushed multiple falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus. That includes calling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 6-foot social distancing recommendation “absolute garbage,” falsely claiming that “nobody has yet demonstrated a single death from the actual virus,” falsely claiming 5G cell technology and “chemtrails” are connected to the virus, and asserting that the pandemic is a “false flag event to then mandate mandatory vaccines” with Bill Gates’ involvement.
The video racked up nearly 7 million views over the course of slightly more than a week before YouTube finally took it down, replacing it with a message saying, “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”
Yet despite YouTube’s action, multiple accounts have reuploaded the video onto their channels. A review by Media Matters found dozens of reuploads (many reuploading the entire interview, but some including just parts), including some translated into other languages. The videos have well more than 3 million views combined.
Among those reuploads, more than a dozen included the full video and carried ads, which means YouTube is benefiting financially. Those videos had more than 1.7 million views combined. Among them are one reupload that has more than a million views alone; a reupload from Dylan Wheeler (known online as “Educating Liberals”), a prominent supporter of the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory; and a reupload on High Frequency Radio, a YouTube channel that seemed to play a major role in popularizing a false coronavirus conspiracy theory about Bill Gates.
Additionally, some of the uploads featured translation into other languages, and some of those also carried ads.
YouTube has repeatedly struggled with the monetization of misinformation on its platform. The site has previously had problems combating other coronavirus misinformation (some of which has also been monetized with ads), despite its promise to crack down on such videos.