MEDFORD, Ore. — Thousands of videos posted by local Christian media network theDove were removed from YouTube last week after running afoul of the platform's "three-strikes" policy for violations of its Community Guidelines.
Perry Atkinson, CEO and President of theDove, said that the takedown encompasses his network's entire YouTube channel — an estimated 15,600 videos.
Though Atkinson expressed puzzlement about why theDove's videos were flagged for removal, it did not come entirely without notice. The network received a series of warnings that it had violated YouTube's guidelines, and Atkinson said that the frequency of complaints about theDove's content began to pick up after the election in November.
Videos flagged by YouTube featured guests discussing national and political issues — including the election, COVID-19, and the federal Equality Act, according to Atkinson. He said that many of theDove's programs are "talking about issues of the day with a faith perspective," which often involves politics.
NewsWatch 12 asked Atkinson if YouTube cited any concerns regarding religious content. Atkinson said that YouTube did not mention a concern with religious content in their citation for removal.
In January, following the Capitol insurrection, theDove received its first "strike," resulting in a week suspension from posting videos. A second strike came in February, bringing a three-week suspension. The final strike, and the total takedown, happened on March 22.
"In accordance with our long standing three-strikes system, we terminated the channel theDove for repeatedly violating our COVID-19 misinformation and presidential election integrity policies," YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi said in a statement to NewsWatch 12. "Any channel that violates these policies will receive a strike, which temporarily restricts uploading or live-streaming. Channels that receive three strikes in the same 90-day period will be permanently removed from YouTube. If a channel owner feels the strike was made in error, they can appeal the decision."
YouTube amended its policies in December, pledging to remove content "that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election." The platform began issuing strikes for new content containing these kinds of claims at the beginning of January.
Likewise, YouTube's policies disallow content that "spreads medical misinformation" about the treatment, prevention, transmission, and public health guidelines for COVID-19.
Atkinson said that theDove has appealed each strike, including the final one, but the appeals were denied. YouTube ultimately refused to reinstate their videos, and denied theDove access to retrieve them.
TheDove is now in communication with several law firms, exploring their legal options.
"We are dealing with two fairly significant law firms, one in Washington D.C. and one in California, to see if there's any recourse we may have to retrieve our 15,000 videos, "said Atkinson. "We are looking into three other platforms as to whether or not we can re-establish a way to distribute our videos."
The California-based firm told Atkinson that theDove is the fifteenth ministry to face a takedown, and they're also the largest. Atkinson said that taking the issue to court could end up being a six-figure expense — money that could otherwise be spent spreading the faith.
Since losing its videos on YouTube, theDove has launched a campaign on its website soliciting donations for a "YouTube Defense Fund," saying that a new streaming service will cost the network $60,000 per year.
"TheDove and our message will not be silenced. Please help us get our content on a new streaming service," the page reads. "Thank you for helping us turn cancellation by YouTube, into a victory for Free Speech."