YouTube has been criticised for deleting video evidence relating to potential war crimes in Syria as part of its work to remove terrorist content and propaganda from the platform.
Thousands of videos have been uploaded to YouTube since 2011 giving “rare insight and rare documentation to what is unfolding in Syria”, said Elliot Higgins, who founded the investigative network Bellingcat.
But Mr Higgins said many of those videos were being removed.
He has used videos uploaded over the last six years “to prove the use of cluster bombs, incendiary bombs, barrel bombs, (as well as) the targeting of hospitals and other civilian structures” in the Syrian conflict.
He told Sky News that while many videos he collected documenting the Syrian conflict were re-uploaded after he appealed against their deletion, the playlists those videos were organised in were gone.
“The playlists were being used in various reports by different organisations, as well as being used to share information about war crimes with justice and accountability organisations. Their deletion seriously impacts our work on justice and accountability.
“We’ve been working with the Syrian Archive to preserve as much as possible, but it’s a fraction of the videos from the conflict, and it’s far less accessible than YouTube.”
Image: A video on YouTube shows the remains of what appears to be a barrel bomb
A spokesperson for YouTube told Sky News the platform was continuing to improve the tools that its reviewers use in video takedowns.
“With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call,” the spokesperson added.
“When it’s brought to our attention that a video or channel has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”
Sky News understands that YouTube is attempting to recover Mr Higgins’ playlists.
But Mr Higgins added: “There are many channels which have uploaded hundreds, if not thousands of videos over the last six years, and if just a few of them violates the new YouTube rules then the channels are suspended.
“In some cases the people who were running the channels were killed or have been displaced so they don’t have access to the channel to challenge these suspensions, so all these videos are lost.”