Gaining physical access to be able to investigate and report on human rights violations in Yemen is very limited and dangerous for independent journalists, international news agencies, UN investigation bodies and international human rights organisations. This is the main reason Yemeni Archive and other documentation groups depend on verified user generated content to assist in criminal case building as well as human rights research.
In the conflict in Yemen, many independent journalists and established media outlets use social media platforms, such as YouTube, to upload documentation of human rights violations and other crimes committed. Platforms have become “accidental archives” that allow anyone in the world with an internet connection to witness the effects of conflict, practically in real time.
While thousands of these videos may contain footage of human rights violations and other crimes, unfortunately, many have been deleted from online platforms. These videos become unavailable through various ways, including:
Repeated targeting of media houses through cyberattacks, often in the form of coordinated “flagging” of videos or alternatively in hacking of media houses’ social media channels
Physical damage or technical failure to the devices (Computers and hard drives) resulting of losing the materials stored on them and not published online.
The user removes the video from fears concerning their personal safety.
Additionally, In 2017, YouTube started using machine learning technology to flag violative content on their platform for review by their teams. The terminated social media accounts received strikes from YouTube stating videos violated its community guidelines by publishing violent/graphic content or by publishing content that incites violence or encourage dangerous activities.
We connected with the citizen reporters and media agencies who received strikes to review their content. Most of the YouTube channels we reviewed did not incite violence or encourage dangerous activities. Rather, the content can be violent because in many cases it shows the suffering of Yemeni civilians as a result of attacks against them.
Losing this documentation will directly affect justice and accountability efforts by Yemeni, regional and international civil society organisations as it might be the only evidence out there about war crimes that happened in Yemen.
It will also risks destroying the collective Yemeni digital memory formed since 2014, which will result in ignoring the violations committed by all parties in the conflict, and prevent future generations from knowing what happened in their country.
Get in touch if you or your media organisation has been affected by content takedowns on YouTube or other social media platforms or need assistance in securely archiving documentation materials.