Germany Fines YouTube Six Figures for Removing Video of Anti-Lockdown Protest

YouTube Eric Piermont/Getty Images

Eric Piermont/Getty Images

A German court is ordering YouTube to pay a $118,000 fine for removing the video of a protest against Covid-19 lockdowns filmed in Switzerland last year.

A regional court in Dresden ordered to pay the 100,000 Euro fine last week more than a year after the company ran afoul of German laws. The court ordered YouTube to put the video online in May 2020, a month after YouTube removed it, but the company took weeks to comply. YouTube unsuccessfully argued the video violated its policies on Covid-19 “misinformation.”

“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,” an attorney for the plaintiff, Joachim Steinhoefel, said in a statement on Twitter.

YouTube has removed millions of videos that allegedly violate its misinformation policies since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The Google subsidiary reported removing 11 million videos in the second quarter of 2020 alone, nearly doubling the 6 million removed in the first quarter. The company said at the time that it was opting for “over-enforcement” imposed by its automated systems in the wake of understaffing.

Such removals are widely permissible in the United States, where the First Amendment generally protects companies that censor their users. However, the German court held that YouTube failed to make its enforcement authority clear in its contract with the account operator who posted the video.

A spokesman for YouTube said it would make enforcement decisions after the ruling on a “case-by-case” basis, saying in a statement to the German newspaper WELT AM SONNTAG, “We have a responsibility to connect our users with trustworthy information and to combat misinformation during Covid-19. This is a decision on a case-by-case basis that we respect and will review accordingly.”

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