Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) is demanding YouTube explain why it stripped ad revenue from a news channel that covered the disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, in a letter exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Blackburn says YouTube's decision to make a video from the news program Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar ineligible for most ads shows that the company is "working with the CCP to promote its dangerous viewpoints around the world." She also asks the company to "identify all other instances" when it "has demonetized, blocked, or deleted content at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party."
Blackburn's letter refers to a video posted on Nov. 18 by Breaking Points that highlighted Peng, who disappeared for two weeks after alleging a high-ranking CCP official had raped her. The Free Beacon reported last week that YouTube's automatic review and manual review both flagged the video as inappropriate, denying Breaking Points a key revenue source.
YouTube told the Free Beacon the video was not "demonetized," since advertisers could still place ads on the video if they opted to advertise on the platform's blacklisted video list. YouTube did not respond to requests for comment on the percentage of advertisers who opt in.
Peng's case has sparked international condemnation, with the Women's Tennis Association demanding her release. WTA CEO Steve Simon asked China's ambassador to the United States to assure Peng's health and safety on Friday, warning that the association might be forced to pull its business and events from China if Peng's allegations are not fully investigated.
Chinese state media on Wednesday released a statement purportedly from Peng, in which the athlete recanted her allegation that former vice premier Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her. According to the statement, Peng said "I'm not missing, nor am I unsafe. I've been resting at home and everything is fine."
Human rights groups say Peng may be held in "residential surveillance at a designated location," a common CCP tactic, and was likely pressured to provide the statement.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach reportedly had a half-hour video call with Peng, and the committee said Peng "is safe and well." But British anti-slavery activist Luke de Pulford noted on Twitter that Bach apparently has a friendly relationship with the alleged rapist.