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YouTube fined €100,000 by German court for removing anti-lockdown video

Tech giant, YouTube, has been fined more than $100,000 by a German court over the removal of a video showing a protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

The German paper Welt am Sonntag said the Higher Regional Court of Dresden ordered YouTubetp pay the hefty fine last week, with the court ruling that the platform was given the penalty for not following a previous court order to immediately reinstate a video of a protest that was filmed in Switzerland and uploaded by a German user.

YouTube had said that the video violated its policies against COVID-19 misinformation before deleting it in January of this year.

The platform argued that, as a private company, it was within its rights to remove similar videos in the U.S. where it is headquartered, but the German court found that the platform’s policy against COVID-19 misinformation was not presented clearly to the person who uploaded the video.

Significantly, the court ruled that the platform’s standard notice that its user policies can change at any time was insufficient and that users should have been given a separate notice about the COVID-19 policy, instead.

YouTube was ordered to put the video back online in mid-April but did not do so until several weeks later. The court responded by issuing the tech giant  with a high fine for the “deliberate and serious” delay.

“With the historically high fine, the Higher Regional Court makes it very clear that court decisions must be observed without restriction, regardless of whether YouTube assumes a violation of its guidelines or not,” Joachim Steinhöfel, the plaintiff’s attorney, said in a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday.

A spokesperson for YouTube told Welt am Sonntag that the company has a “responsibility” to provide “trustworthy information” about COVID-19 and to fight misinformation amid the pandemic. YouTube’s policy against COVID-19 misinformation states that the platform does not “allow content that spreads medical misinformation that contradicts local health authorities or the World Health Organization’s (WHO) medical information about COVID-19.”

YouTube removed over 9.5 million videos uploaded around the world during the first three months of 2021 alone, according to the platform’s parent company, Google. In Germany, more than 90,000 videos were removed. The videos were taken down for violating a wide range of company policies in addition to the COVID-19 policy. Most were taken down after being automatically flagged by software, without any human review taking place, Newsweek reports.

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