German court fines YouTube more than $100,000 for removing anti-lockdown protest video last year

The court ruled that YouTube – a subsidiary of Google – had not clearly spelled out its misinformation enforcement policies.
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Youtube log with "censored" in the background.
YouTube logo with "censored" in the background, BRAZIL - 2020/06/15.
(Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A court in Germany has ordered YouTube to pay a $118,000 fine for removing a video of an anti-lockdown protest filmed in Switzerland last year.

YouTube says the video violated its "misinformation" policies pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joachim Steinhoefel, an attorney for the plaintiff, wrote of the decision, "With the historically high fine, the Higher Regional Court makes it very clear that court decisions must be observed without restriction, regardless of whether YouTube assumes a violation of its guidelines or not."

YouTube removed close to 17 million videos during the first half of 2020, many of which violated the company's misinformation policies. The company claimed its automated systems were over-enforcing the rules, due to understaffing. 

In the United States, the First Amendment by-and-large protects companies that censor its users. However, German laws opt for a stronger stance on the issue, and in this case, the court ruled that YouTube failed to clearly spell out its enforcement policy. 

A spokesperson for the company told a German newspaper, "We have a responsibility to connect our users with trustworthy information and to combat misinformation during Covid-19. This is a decision on a case-by-case basis that we respect and will review accordingly."