Sky News Australia has been banned from uploading content to YouTube for seven days after violating its medical misinformation policies by posting numerous videos which denied the existence of Covid-19 or encouraged people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin.
The ban was imposed by the digital giant on Thursday afternoon, the day after the Daily Telegraph ended Alan Jones’s regular column amid controversy about his Covid-19 commentary which included calling the New South Wales chief health officer Kerry Chant a village idiot on his Sky News program.
YouTube has not disclosed which Sky News program the videos were from but said there were “numerous” offending videos which have now been removed.
The Sky News Australia YouTube channel, which has 1.85m subscribers, has been issued a strike and is temporarily suspended from uploading new videos or livestreams for one week.
Videos that did not violate policies and were posted before Thursday are still online. Three strikes in the same 90-day period will result in a channel being permanently removed from YouTube.
“We have clear and established Covid-19 medical misinformation policies based on local and global health authority guidance, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 misinformation that could cause real-world harm,” a YouTube spokesperson told Guardian Australia.
“We apply our policies equally for everyone regardless of uploader, and in accordance with these policies and our long-standing strikes system, removed videos from and issued a strike to Sky News Australia’s channel.
“Specifically, we don’t allow content that denies the existence of Covid-19 or that encourages people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus. We do allow for videos that have sufficient countervailing context, which the violative videos did not provide.”
Sky’s YouTube channel has grown in two years from 70,000 subscribers to 1.85m, which is higher than ABC News or any other local media company.
One of the most popular videos, with 4.6m views, is Jones’s “Australians must know the truth – this virus is not a pandemic”, which was posted at the height of the pandemic last year.
On 19 July, Sky News was forced to apologise for a Jones interview with MP Craig Kelly in which they claimed the Delta variant is not dangerous and vaccines won’t help you. The video was removed and a lengthy apology was published on the Sky News website.
YouTube is an important platform for Sky News and the more extreme the video, the more popular it is.
Earlier this week after he was dumped by the Daily Telegraph, Jones, 80, pointed to his success on the platform.
“Have a look at Sky News YouTube, Sky News Facebook and Alan Jones Facebook and you can see,” Jones told his viewers. “The same column that I write for the Tele goes up on my Facebook page.
“The public can check it for themselves. Thirty-five years at top of the radio – and I don’t resonate with the public? Honestly.”
Sky News Australia has been approached for comment.