YouTube on Wednesday explained publicly for the first time why it shut down a channel belonging to Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, a popular Nigerian televangelist with millions of followers around the world.
T.B. Joshua, the founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in the commercial city of Lagos, western Nigeria, also owns Emmanuel TV, the broadcast arm of the church which airs on DSTV, a satellite service run by South African firm MultiChoice.
Emmanuel TV YouTube channel had over 1.8 million subscribers and 600 million views when it was terminated by YouTube.
Several reports had said the channel was shut down after the church posted videos claiming to “cure” gay members of the congregation of their sexuality.
While a UK-based media organization ‘openDemocracy’ said it was behind the sudden closure of Pastor TB Joshua’s popular YouTube Channel Emmanuel TV, YouTube itself had not previously explained the reason behind the closure.
An attempt by CNN to get a reaction from YouTube was not successful, the network said in their article on Tuesday.
In their own article titled, ‘YouTube closes African channel promoting televangelist’s violent conversion therapy’, OpenDemocracy’s Kerry Cullinan claimed that the American video-sharing site terminated Emmanuel TV “in response to our enquiries about TB Joshua’s controversial exorcisms.”
The report said the channel posted at least seven clips showing “the charismatic Christian televangelist engaging in exorcism to ‘cure’ gay and lesbian congregants of their sexual orientation by casting out ‘the demon of homosexuality’.”
In response to an inquiry from Today News Africa in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, YouTube provided its first public comments on the channel’s closure.
“In accordance with our long standing three strikes system, we terminated the channel The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) for repeatedly violating our hate speech policy,” Ms. Choi wrote in her statement. “Our Community Guidelines clearly prohibit content promoting violence or hatred against protected groups based on attributes such as sexual orientation. We enforce this policy consistently, regardless of speaker, nationality or religious affiliation.”
YouTube hate speech policy says the company removes content promoting violence or hatred against protected individuals or groups, including videos that portray homosexuality as a disease that needs to be cured.
According to YouTube, a channel is terminated after three strikes within 90 days. The first strike hands the channel a one-week suspension, the second strike leads to a 2-week suspension and the third strike leads to the channel being terminated.
YouTube says when a channel is terminated, it is against its Terms of Service to open another channel or circumvent the policy suspension on one channel by activity on another.
It adds that it consistently enforces its policies, regardless of who owns the channel, insisting that channel owners are notified accordingly when their content is removed.
In addition, YouTube regularly reports on the removal of hateful or harassing content. In Q4 2020, the company removed over 170,000 channels, over 97,000 videos and over 46 million comments for violating its policies on hate speech.
The company says it has a transparent strikes policy before an account is terminated. Channels that repeatedly or egregiously violate its policies are terminated. Channels that receive three strikes in the same 90-day period are permanently removed from YouTube.
In one of the videos posted by Emmanuel TV, two young women in a romantic relationship attend church service together, and after prayer and a word of prophecy from Prophet T.B. Joshua, the channel said, “the unnatural affection they once had for each other is remarkably removed!”
Another video by the channel narrates how “Ubaldo was abused as a young child, paving the pathway for demonic influence and infiltration – to the extent the young man entered into a life of drug abuse and homosexuality which steadily spiralled out of control.”
Such videos are seen by YouTube as hate speech against the LGBTQ community.
Joshua refuted the allegations of ‘Hate Speech’. “Our mission is to share the love of God with everyone – irrespective of race or religion – and we strongly oppose all forms of hate speech,” he wrote on Twitter.
In the description of the video which triggered the suspension, the cleric states, “God hates sin, not sinners. When the Bible says, ‘Do not judge so that you will not be judged’, it means we should hate sin, not the sinner because sinners can change… We should hate the act, not the people because our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the ‘spirit beings’ that cause all these acts.”
Today News Africa‘s Simon Ateba contacted YouTube after he was flooded with requests from African readers and followers of Prophet T.B. Joshua around the world who wondered whether YouTube was attempting to force its liberal belief systems, especially same-sex relationships, on a continent still seen as very conservative and religious, and where the bible is seen as sacred and homosexuality is described in it as a “sin.”
More specifically, readers asked whether YouTube was abusing freedom of religion or belief, and on how the company was striking the right balance between protecting people’s sexual orientations but also the religious orientations of others.
In a lengthy letter sent to Today News Africa, one reader said what YouTube may describe as “hate” is simply what they consider as “righteousness.”