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In what appears to be more than just a coincidence, YouTube has shut down a number of cannabis-related channels over the past several weeks.
One such channel, Marihuana Television (based out of Spain) released a notice about the censorship on April 12: "During the last six years, our YouTube channel has been a reference of information on cannabis culture in Spanish," the statement translates. "Up to half a million people a month visited us. However, on April 11 and without notice, YouTube canceled our account. Our wings have been cut off."
The pattern is international, targeting channels across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Some of these channels are purely educational or for entertainment; others are related to cultivation, grow shops, or seed banks.
MERRY JANE reached out to YouTube for comment, but received no response (yet).
Sandra Colasanti of Urbanremo, Canada's biggest cannabis channel boasting 190,000 subscribers before YouTube shut it down, says she began hearing about pot censorship on the platform in December 2017. It began with a notice that they were violating YouTube's community guidelines. Violations, according to YouTube, include "videos that contain nudity or sexual content, violent or graphic content, harmful or dangerous content, hateful content, threats, spam, misleading metadata, or scams." Upon the first violation, the channel receives a strike and the video gets removed; the second violation (if within three months) leads to a moratorium on posting videos for two weeks; and the third violation (if within three months of the first two) results in account termination.
Account holders who believe their content was unreasonably removed have the option to appeal the strikes, according to YouTube’s terms.
Colasanti, like others who have been targeted, says her channel never violated any of YouTube's community guidelines. "We moderate every single comment, and in no way could we be called spamming," she says. "Our videos try to be uplifting and positive in the community, and are not in any way trying to hurt people." The channel was started by Sandra and Remo Colasanti, a medical marijuana patient who broke his back and his neck in two different accidents. The videos take viewers around the world, educating and documenting what members of the cannabis industry and medical marijuana community are doing with the plant. The channel didn't even show people smoking cannabis.
Sick patients who can't leave their homes live vicariously through Remo's on-camera adventures, his wife says. "To lose this channel is devastating not only to the dedication that Remo puts in everyday for the videos, but for the patients who feel like they lost something," she says.
For Urbanremo, after the first two strikes, dozens came in at once in the middle of the night. "We don't know what it is, whether it's a bot, or whether it's YouTube that's doing it," Colasanti says. "We heard that back in December, YouTube hired 1,000 people to get rid of fake videos. Whether they don't know the guidelines, or what the deal is, we're not the only one by any means."
Urbanremo's correspondence with YouTube below:
Clara Sativa of Marihuana Television says they received various warnings before the ultimate shutdown, but that the channel had never violated community guidelines. "We had one strike because in one video about the Cannabis Cup, there were some people smoking, but this was our warning," she says. The next two strikes came within a few days of each other, and without any time for the channel administrators to react, it was shut down, Sativa says.
"I'm preparing a collective statement to share with all the Spanish channels affected to see which kind of strategy we can all follow together," Sativa says. "Right now in this moment, everybody is doing their own appeal to YouTube, waiting for an answer." YouTube has yet to give these targeted channels the courtesy of a personal response.
Marihuana Television's collective statement below:
"This censorship of the freedom of expression and educational channels is not normal," Sativa says. "We were on YouTube since 2008 and always respected all its rules!"
MERRY JANE will update this story as it continues to develop.