YouTube on Monday permanently suspended the account of a conservative think tank that regularly criticizes big tech companies, including YouTube's parent company, Google.
The streaming service originally gave no explanation for suspending the American Principles Project (APP), a group largely focused on public education reform. According to the group's president, Terry Schilling, YouTube said only that APP had committed "severe and repeated violations" of YouTube's community guidelines. In a statement provided to the Washington Free Beacon, Schilling speculated that APP had been banned "because we support Big Tech reform and have opposed Google's previous efforts to censor conservative speech."
After a Free Beacon inquiry, YouTube said APP was banned for resharing videos from a banned account, that of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. YouTube did not explain why it permanently banned Bannon's account in January. YouTube told the Free Beacon that it reinstated APP's channel and issued a warning, the latest instance of a social media company banning and then reinstating accounts following outside pressure. As of this writing, however, an APP spokesperson said the organization's account still has limited functionality.
Days before YouTube banned APP, the group came under fire from Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe's campaign on Sunday sent a fundraising email that called APP a "shadowy organization" that has "launched a barrage of attacks against" McAuliffe.
APP is the latest conservative organization suspended without explanation from major social media platforms. YouTube last week "permanently suspended" the account of Joe Kent (R.), a Washington state candidate for the House of Representatives. After the story was picked up by conservative outlets, YouTube reinstated the channel while maintaining that "we enforce our policies equally for everyone."
APP director of policy Jon Schweppe said he received the suspension email at 6:30 AM with no prior warning. Following the suspension, APP was not able to access or download content it had posted to its YouTube page. Schilling said he is considering legal action against YouTube.
YouTube says it maintains a three-strikes policy, but it did not apply that policy in APP's case.
APP largely focuses on public school issues but has criticized big tech for restricting free speech and allowing children to access pornography and other obscene material. It lobbied against Section 230, the federal law that protects social media platforms from being held liable for speech hosted on their sites.
Google's original lack of explanation for the permanent ban could spur more calls for transparency in how big tech companies apply their content moderation rules. Scholars from across the political spectrum have called for federal rules on transparency that would require major social media companies to explain bans, suspensions, and other enforcement actions.
Update 2:06 p.m.: This piece has been updated to reflect YouTube's response to a Free Beacon inquiry and subsequent reinstatement of APP's account.