March 27, 2022

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India Enters The Tech Battle Against Silicon Valley


There is a new player in the current war against US-based tech giant censorship and it is from India. On March 22nd, YouTube blocked Indian news channel WION — World Is One News — for what it labeled as violations of its community guidelines.

According to a statement by WION executive editor Palki Sharma, the block came after the India-based news channel aired live remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a press conference from Turkey on March 10. This was after the then-latest session of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Lavrov answered a question about Russia attacking Ukraine and stated that Russia did not attack Ukraine but was responding to a direct threat to the Russian Federation. The channel also aired live the Ukraine foreign minister’s words.

For airing Lavrov’s words, which YouTube labeled a form of misinformation, the platform blocked WION on March 22nd. “No videos, no uploads, a total block” Sharma explained was the punishment handed down by YouTube.

Viewers force YouTube to back down

The Indian channel appealed, lost and remained blocked. However, according to WION, after airing a report of the Silicon Valley-based platform’s blocking of the Indian News Channel on the WION program Gravitas, a tremendous backlash by WION viewers ensued forcing YouTube to reverse its decision. According to a report from India.com, there was a twelve-hour barrage of what came to twenty-six thousand tweets demanding that YouTube restore WION. This forced YouTube to reverse its decision.

In her video statement celebrating YouTube’s restoring the channel, Sharma explained that all the channel did was air live the remarks of the foreign ministers of both Russia and Ukraine. She also noted that other channels did exactly the same thing including CNN’s Turkey service, France24, Reuters and received no such ban. Further, other programming that runs against YouTube’s policy also remained untouched, she said, including material from American-based CBS and other channels. “For the record, this treatment was reserved only for us — a channel from India, not western channels,” she explained as she detailed the lack of action on the same video and other videos uploaded by the other news outlets.

In her statement, Sharma demanded this form of platform censorship come to an end and that Silicon Valley must stop its censorship. She made it clear it must not be the position of platforms to censor who can and cannot be heard.

Who put big tech in charge?

“Who made big tech our media watchdog? Nobody. You cannot be a platform and an editor and a censor all at the same time.” She said, adding: “That’s called rigging the game.” She then accused the Silicon Valley tech companies of doing exactly that. “Do you know what are the biggest media companies in the world today? Technology companies. Big tech controls global media, news, cinema, music, they dominate everything.” Sharma went on to explain that now random algorithms override journalistic expertise and experience. “Some robot decides what is news and what is not. And this is not a slippery slope, this is a cliff edge.” She warned.

Sharma called for an end to this big tech tyranny. “We are the editors, they are the platforms that distinction must be made clear in no uncertain terms.” She said.

She also called for an end to the western bias of big tech. Citing how Russian state television in RT and Sputnik are both banned, Sharma explained that there is fake news and propaganda, “but a blanket ban is never the solution.”

The solution, she said, is fact-checking but she laments that “Unfortunately, YouTube does not believe in any of that.”

WION is the India-based all-news channel aiming to provide an Indian perspective in world news according to their parent company website — Zee media also based in India. Zee is part of the Essel Group a business conglomerate in India.

Founded in 2016, WION has proven to be an alternative to western-based news sources as well and has grown in popularity and audience. It now appears to be a major player in the world news forum on the internet.

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