YouTube must apologise to loyalist parade supporters whose accounts it took offline, after it emerged that a number of them have now been reactivated.
That is the view of Jim Allister, who said that by freezing the accounts the global video-sharing company had “cast a slur” upon people who were simply using them for the legitimate activity of sharing video footage of marches.
Questions remain unanswered about exactly it was that spurred YouTube – owned by Google – to take action against the users.
It is thought around 10 YouTube accounts carrying footage of loyalist marches had been suspended.
Whilst a number of them have now been re-activated, at least two remained inaccessible throughout much of Monday.
Mr Allister, TUV leader, said “a couple” of the re-activate sites are in his area, and he added: “I welcome the fact they have been re-instated.
“But I think that with those that have been re-instated the operators deserve an apology from YouTube, as they brought them into disrepute by the very suggestion there was something wrong with their sites when there patently wasn’t.”
Asked why it took the action it did, YouTube said simply that it does not permit anything which “promotes proscribed terror organisations”.
It did not say whether its action had been prompted by a complaint, or a series of complaints, or what the precise nature of any such complaints were.
Mr Allister said: “I don’t want anything promoting illegality or proscribed organisations.
“But I don’t want that used where it shouldn’t be used to blacken wholly legitimate sites – and that’s what I think has happened here.”
He said that he has been in touch with YouTube to ask for an apology for its “total nonsense”.
Collectively, the YouTube accounts which were taken offline had thousands of subscribers, and the videos which were put online had been viewed millions of times.
Among the other people speaking out was ex-Apprentice Boys governor Jim Brownlee.
He believes YouTube’s action was probably sparked by someone complaining, adding: “Sure, Northern Ireland wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for complaints.”
“I think YouTube have been misinformed – that’s my interpretation of it,” he said, stressing he was speaking in a personal capacity.
“At the end of the day, it’s culture. It wasn’t a problem in the past, now there is a problem. Where’s the change? What’s different?
“I think somebody [in YouTube] has knee-jerked. There may be a realisation along the line that they’ve done something wrong.”
News of the mass suspension of accounts emerged at the weekend.
On Sunday morning a Facebook page called ‘Marching Media’ (@MarchingMedia1) said “last night numerous Protestant/unionist/loyalist band channels were closed by YouTube”.
This including one called ‘Adiprod’, which is linked with Marching Media.
Then late on Sunday night, the Marching Media Facebook page said a number of the affected YouTube accounts were being re-instated, adding: “Thanks everyone who has shared previous posts and contacted YouTube on this matter. I believe this has greatly helped to reinstate these accounts.”
A message sent by YouTube to some web users whose accounts were re-activated (which includes Adiprod) was posted online. It read: “After a review of your account, we have confirmed that your YouTube account is not in violation of our terms of service. As such we have unsuspended your account.”
As of late afternoon on Monday, the News Letter could find at least two YouTube accounts which remained de-activated; one was called Marching Bands UK (www.youtube.com/user/roughgrange/), and another On The March Videos (www.youtube.com/user/titan22nrg/).
Anyone trying to watch videos would be met with by the words: “This account has been terminated for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”
The latter is run by a man called Neil, who spoke to the News Letter on condition his identity is not revealed.
He said he had appealed the decision on Saturday morning, but had heard nothing since.
However, as of late Monday night, this site too appeared to be coming back online.