scorecardYouTube said it removed 2 ads featuring the Belarus captives' admission videos
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YouTube said it removed 2 ads featuring the Belarus captives' admission videos

Erin Snodgrass   

YouTube said it removed 2 ads featuring the Belarus captives' admission videos
Tech2 min read
Screenshot from a video of the journalist Roman Protasevich released by Belarusian authorities on May 24, 2021.    Via Hanna Liubakova/Twitter
  • YouTube took action against a pro-Belarus channel over two ads this week, Rest of World reported.
  • The ads used footage from Roman Protasevich's confession video released by Belarusian authorities.
  • Protasevich's father told Reuters on Tuesday his son's statements seemed coerced.

YouTube took action this week over advertisements that featured videos posted by Belarusian authorities of the detained opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, according to Rest of World.

Protasevich and Sapega's arrests in Minsk on Sunday sparked international outrage after Belarusian officials diverted their Ryanair flight, which had been traveling to Lithuania from Greece. In the following days, Belarusian authorities released videos of both Protasevich and Sapega talking about organizing mass protests against President Alexander Lukashenko last year.

Protasevich's father, Dzmitry, told Reuters on Tuesday his son's statements in the video appeared coerced.

"I think he was forced," he said. "It's not his words, it's not his intonation of speech - he is acting very reserved, and you can tell he is nervous."

Following the release of the videos, several Twitter users noticed YouTube ads that showed footage from the Belarusian-released statements from Protasevich and Sapega.

Rest of World traced the ads to a pro-Belarusian-government channel whose name translates to "Belarus, country for life." The patriotic channel has fewer than 2,000 subscribers and features content praising Belarusian security forces and mocking the opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Protasevich and Sapega's videos are featured on the channel as well.

Screenshots posted on social media suggest the advertisements directed viewers to a Telegram channel of pro-government content with nearly 80,000 subscribers, according to Rest of World. Another Twitter user shared a screenshot of an apparent advertisement that featured Sapega's confession video as well.

A representative for YouTube's parent company, Google, told Rest of World's Louise Matsakis that the company had taken action against both of the advertisements for violating its content policies.

"YouTube has always had strict policies around the type of content that is allowed to serve as ads on our platform," the person said. "We quickly remove any ads that violate these policies."

Google's publicly available guidelines on "Sensitive Events" say it does not allow ads that "potentially profit from or exploit a sensitive event with significant social, cultural, or political impact, such as civil emergencies, natural disasters, public health emergencies, terrorism, and related activities, conflict, or mass acts of violence."

The platform has previously come under fire for both its content and advertising practices. The site has traditionally allowed political advertisements, though Google temporarily banned all political ads after the 2020 election.

According to Rest of World, social-media users last year complained online about advertisements on YouTube promoting Belarusian government propaganda that appeared to come from the same "Belarus, country for life" channel. The company reportedly did not respond to Matsakis' questions about any past action against the channel.