“Why Do They Get To Decide What Is And Isn’t News?” Sky News Boss Slams Google

20/2/18: Editor in chief of The Australian newspaper, Paul Whittaker. PIC: John Feder/The Australian.

Sky News Australia chief executive Paul Whittaker [featured image] has taken aim at tech giant Google, following the decision to temporarily ban the media company from YouTube last month.

The Sky News YouTube channel – which has over 1.85 million subscribers – was hit with one-week ban from YouTube, after the tech giant found certain videos had breached its standards around COVID-19.

The Guardian found that several videos featuring Alan Jones and the Outsiders program discussing hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin as a treatment for COVID had been removed from the platform.

Now, both Google and Sky News are fronting the Senate Committee inquiry investigating media diversity.

In his opening statement, Whittaker denied the inference that Sky News had promoted COVID denialist theories and called into question Google’s power.

“Sky News Australia strongly supports vaccination. Any claims to the contrary are false and a blatant attempt to discredit and harm our news service,” he said.

“YouTube’s actions make clear that it is not a neutral platform, but a publisher selectively broadcasting content and censoring certain views, while allowing videos that are patently false, misogynistic, and racist to proliferate.

“Why does a tech giant, YouTube, and faceless, nameless individuals backed by an algorithm based in California get to decide that holding governments and decision-makers to account is misinformation? Why do they get to decide what is and isn’t news?”

Whittaker also suggested that Google’s official policies for COVID-19 coverage are almost impossible to adhere to.

When asked whether Sky News Australia had deployed its own editorial policy around COVID-19 coverage, Whittaker said accuracy was the top priority.

“We publish every day hours and hours of live content. I would argue we have covered every angle of this pandemic. Anyone who watches our channel is very well informed,” he said.

“The policies are the police that govern everything we broadcast.”

Whittaker also pointed out that the videos of concern – which have now been permanently deleted from YouTube – did not receive any complaints and had not garnered any response from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Also fronting the inquiry was Google Australia’s director, government affairs and public policy Lucinda Longcroft.

Longcroft hit back at Whittaker’s claims, maintaining Google applies its policies “equally across the political spectrum”.

She also maintained that the decision to remove the Sky News videos went back to safety.

“Where there are videos that, without further context, assert that those drugs [ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine] are effective we remove them because of the danger and medical harm that could be caused to users,” said.


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