YouTube removes pro-Syrian government channels as Bashar al-Assad mounts attack

YouTube shut down several accounts connected to the Syrian regime(Opens in a new window) amid rumors spreading of a possible chemical attack(Opens in a new window) in Syria over the weekend.

The channels include PresidencyCy, an account frequently used to promote Syrian President Bashar al-Assad(Opens in a new window), and an account promoting the Ministry of Defense(Opens in a new window). Other acounts terminated from YouTube belonged to the Syrian Arab News Agency(Opens in a new window) (SANA), and SANA’s TV channel(Opens in a new window).

In a statement provided to Mashable, a YouTube spokesperson says that “YouTube complies with all applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws — including with respect to content created and uploaded by restricted entities. If we find that an account violates our Terms of Service or Community Guidelines, we disable it.”

Banners on three of the accounts say the channels were removed “due to a violation of YouTube’s Terms of Service.” However, YouTube provides a different explanation for the PresidencyCy channel: “This account has been terminated due to a legal complaint.”

YouTube didn’t comment on the reason behind the dual messaging.

The shutdowns come weeks after a video from TomoNews US, an outlet run by the Taiwanese animated news company Next Animation Studio(Opens in a new window), claimed that the Syrian government accounts might have generated advertising revenue(Opens in a new window), which would be in violation of U.S. sanctions on the Syrian regime.

The video from TomoNews US shows that some of the ads that played before videos on PresdencyCy’s account include ads for Wells Fargo, various organizations that support refugees, and even President Donald Trump.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2011 blocking American companies from doing business(Opens in a new window) with the Syrian government.

On the issue of whether the videos were monetized, YouTube confirmed “that it didn’t have a financial relationship with any of the removed channel owners.”

YouTube also confirmed that ads ran on the Syrian state-run channels, however the company said “the content on these channels was being monetized by separate content owners, not by the channel owners directly,” meaning that the accounts connected to the Syrian regime used content belonging to third parties.

YouTube’s system scans videos for such content and allows the copyright owner of the uploaded content to monetize the video, not the user who uploaded a copy of the content.

YouTube did not respond to queries as to whether it would pay the copyright owners for ads shown on material uploaded by the banned Syrian state-run channels.

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