Suppressing the evidence: YouTube had removed video to protect BDS activist Joe Loughnane’s “privacy”
On June 10, 2016, I reported on how Someone wants to suppress this video of vile BDS shoutdown of Professor.
The video in question showed Irish anti-Israel activist Joseph Loughnane verbally abusing and threatening Professor Alan Johnson, who runs the Fathom Journal and was giving a lecture against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. His speech was titled, Solidarity not Boycotts: the progressive case against boycotting Israel:
Thank you for inviting me to Galway University.
I am the editor of Fathom journal, and Senior Research Fellow at BICOM. I speak as a friend of Israel, a friend of Palestine and friend of peace. I am not Jewish. I am a democratic socialist, an editor of Dissent magazine and a former editor of Historical Materialism. I am a Professor of Politics – my inaugural lecture was on the thought of the Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi.
I am a Zionist: that means that I believe in Israel as the embodiment of the right of the Jewish people to self determination. I believe in full civic equality for Israel’s minorities. I am a two state-er and have been for 30 years. I believe in the right of the Palestinian people to national self-determination: two states for two peoples.
The video is embedded lower in this post, but here is a taste of what Loughnane shouted, while thrusting his fist, at Prof. Johnson:
“You’re f-ing Zionist, f-ing pricks, get the f–k off our campus”
Irish4Israel did repost the video on Vimeo, with this explanation:
“Watch these BDS bullies try to break up an anti-boycott meeting on the campus of National University of Ireland Galway, 5 March 2014. Disgraceful, but typical. Defend free speech on campus! At the lectern is Professor Alan Johnson, editor of the pro-‘two states for two peoples’ journal ‘Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region’. The anti-Israel fanatic shouting vile abuse, threatening the students, and trying to break up the meeting is Joseph Loughnane.”
On March 12th 2014 this video with over 41,000 hits was deleted from Youtube due to the individuals in this video complaining. We are uploading it to Vimeo as we wont be silent exposing the true face of BDS.
With all due respect to Vimeo, it’s no YouTube in terms of social sharing and visibility. The Vimeo version has fewer than 1,000 views.
A video of the harrassment taken by Loughnane’s compatriot was turned private after the incident gained attention:
In short, there was a deliberate effort to hide the evidence of the BDS harrassment of Prof. Johnson.
That effort meant that websites that embedded the Irish4Israel video has video error messages:
Mark Humphry’s website has extensive background not only on Joe Loughnane, but also on the take down of the videos. My follow up posts also have extensive background on Loughnane and the University’s reaction:
- Galway Univ: Shout down of pro-Israel speaker “unacceptable” and “will be investigated immediately”
- Will Galway Univ. anti-Israel F-Bomber get away with shout down?
I never was able to get an answer from Galway University as to what, if any, action was taken against Loughnane for the incident.
I order to preserve the evidence, I uploaded a copy of the Irish4Israel video to Legal Insurrection’s YouTube Channel. The video quickly gained almost 14,000 views and was embedded in numerous websites and linked at even more.
As described in my prior post, a few days ago I abruptly received a notice from YouTube that it had received a complaint that the video violated the privacy provisions of the Terms of Service. The notice read in pertinent part:
Dear Legal Insurrection,
This is to notify you that we have received a privacy complaint from an
individual regarding your content:
Video URLs: http://youtube.com/watch?v=1gkiGUBAM7g
The information reported as violating privacy is at 0_00-0_24
We would like to give you an opportunity to remove or edit the private
information within the content reported. You have 48 hours to take action
on the complaint. If you remove the alleged violation from the site within
the 48 hours, the complaint filed will then be closed. If the potential
privacy violation remains on the site after 48 hours, the complaint will be
reviewed by the YouTube Team and may be removed pursuant to our Privacy
I responded to YouTube as follows, in pertinent part:
Regarding the notice of privacy complaint below, the complaint is without any justification. The person in the video engaged in conduct at a public event, and his actions have received widespread public attention. The person in the video also is a political activist to calls attention to himself and has received substantial news coverage for his actions. See, e.g., this Google search,https://www.google.com/#q=Joseph+Loughnane
This video is proper reporting and in the public interest. To take it down over a privacy concern does not comply with YouTube’s own Privacy Guidelines, which state “We also take public interest, newsworthiness, and consent into account when determining if content should be removed for a privacy violation.” This video is of a news event that took place in public, there is no expectation of privacy for such public conduct….
The attempt to cause the take down of this video is an attempt to suppress legitimate journalism and news reporting. YouTube should not become a party to that….
Readers joined me in tweeting to YouTube not to do this:
— Legal Insurrection (@LegInsurrection) June 10, 2016
Nonetheless, YouTube removed the video:
Hi Legal Insurrection,
As you may know, our Community Guidelines describe which content we allow – and don’t allow – on YouTube. Your video BDS Bullies at NUI Galway was flagged to us for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines and we’ve removed it from YouTube.
Impact on your account
Please note that this removal has not resulted in a Community Guidelines strike or penalty on your account.We encourage you to review all videos in your account to make sure they are in line with our community guidelines as additional violations could result in strikes on your account, or even lead to account termination.
– The YouTube Team
I send out a tweet providing readers with an alternative link to the Legal Insurrection server, to which I had uploaded the video:
— Legal Insurrection (@LegInsurrection) June 13, 2016
Nonetheless, the removal resulted in other websites that embedded the Legal Insurrection video having video errors:
Just after midnight on June 14, 2016, I followed up with a request to YouTube corporate media relations seeking YouTube’s official position:
Please see this post about the unjustified removal of a video about public conduct by a public figure which generated much news coverage at my website and elsewhere — but now has been removed by YouTube to protect the “privacy” of the person in the video, https://legalinsurrection.com/2016/06/someone-wants-to-suppress-this-video-of-vile-bds-shoutdown-of-professor/
How does YouTube justify this removal? If this removal is necessary for “privacy,” then there literally is no video that shouldn’t be removed by YouTube. This has very serious implications, and I request YouTube’s official response.
I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible about YouTube’s position as I am writing about this issue from the perspective of the threat to journalistic use of YouTube that this ruling presents.
William A. Jacobson
Legal Insurrection website.
Late in the evening on June 14, I realized that the video had been restored, though I don’t know at what time that happened. I received no communications from YouTube about it. As of this writing, the video is live:
This is a positive step, but the whole sequence is disturbing. The Irish4Israel version, that had 40,000 views, is still removed.
By what standards does YouTube enforce its privacy provision based on identifiable features in a video — if mere identification of a person in a video were enough to require a take down, that would eviscerate the ability of citizens and professional journalists to report on public events and matters of public interest using YouTube as the publishing vehicle. Is that what YouTube really wants? If not, it should more clearly define the standard so that lower-level employees are not left with unbridled and arbitrary discretion.
The removal was particularly frightening for those of us who report on the BDS movement. It is one thing to read about the vicious campaign of harassment directed at Israeli and pro-Israeli speakers, it is another thing to see it and hear it, as in the Loughnane video.
Videos of shoutdowns and disruptions are a key component of our reporting, such as these videos we have published (we also use many videos published by others):
It really is hard to imagine how we could report on BDS on campus without the ability to post videos to YouTube where they get the most viewership and are most easily shared.
I wrote not that long ago about how Conservatives are prisoners of Twitter because we had come to rely on that platform to communicate, leaving us with no viable alternative when conservative accounts were shut down arbitrarily.
The same holds true for YouTube and Facebook — we are prisoners. Better start exploring the options before it’s too late.
One final act readers can do. There is a phenomenon called the Streisand Effect:
The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.
It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California, inadvertently drew further public attention to it. Similar attempts have been made, for example, in cease-and-desist letters to suppress numbers, files, and websites. Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity and media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, often being widely mirrored across the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks.
It’s often said that the best answer to offensive speech is more speech, not censorship. So too the best answer to attempts to suppress the Loughnane video is to share it, post it, embed it.
— Legal Insurrection (@LegInsurrection) June 15, 2016
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