Attention turned to Google’s suspension of Sky News from its YouTube channel when Australia’s Senate committee on media diversity resumed on Monday.
ANZ director of public policy Lucinda Longcroft defended Google’s actions claiming its policies were applied “equally across the political spectrum” and justifying the decision on Sky News on grounds of safety.
Some of the videos removed included Alan Jones and a programme discussing hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.
Longcroft said videos which, “without further context” claimed that the drugs referred to were effective, were removed “because of the danger and medical harm that could be caused to users”.
Sky News Australia chief executive Paul Whittaker (pictured) denied that Sky News had promoted denialist theories, and said Sky News Australia strongly supported vaccination. “Any claims to the contrary are false and a blatant attempt to discredit and harm our news service,” he said.
He said the actions “made it clear that (Google) 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?”
He asked why they “get to decide what is and isn’t news”, adding that Google’s official policies for pandemic coverage were “almost impossible to adhere to”. He claimed accuracy was Sky’s top priority.
He pointed out that the videos referred to had not led to any complaints or response from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The committee also heard from ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin, who was accompanied by her deputy Crenia Chapman and content and consumer general manager Cathy Rainsford.
Others giving evidence to the committee included former prime minister Kevin Rudd, representatives of the infrastructure, transport, regional development and communications department, and Peter Marshall, secretary of the United Firefighters Union’s Victorian branch.