Video-sharing platform Youtube on Wednesday appeared to have shut down several accounts carrying North Korean propaganda and media.
In a move caused by a reported “legal complaint” against the accounts, channels linked to the DPRK state-run DPRK Today and Uriminzokkiri outlets were listed as terminated as of Wednesday evening Seoul time.
Another account, known as Inminchoson (People’s Korea) was also shut down, as were several channels called “Red Star” — previously known for their live streaming of the DPRK’s Korean Central Television (KCTV) broadcasts.
No further explanation for the channels’ closure has been given, with requests for comment by NK News to Google, which owns Youtube, gone unanswered as of publication.
It remains possible the terminations are connected to the DPRK media outlets’ potential links to the North Korean ruling party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD).
Chad O’Carroll, CEO and founder of NK News‘s parent organization the Korea Risk Group, said the move should, however, come as “no surprise” given broader concerns about sanctions compliance.
“Our conversations with clients in the private sector have in the last couple of years revealed significantly increasing concerns related to many North Korea-related transactions,” O’Carroll said.
“Even the mere hosting of videos from North Korea-controlled vectors is something that is likely a sanctions concern for Youtube at this time,” he continued.
“Combined, most corporations would probably recommend against hiring lawyers to investigate such channels, given the costs involved and negligible return on investment. The loser? Readers like you.”
But it remains unclear just how closely linked many of these accounts are to the PAD, sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in September 2017, with some likely run by foreign supporters of the DPRK and not the government itself.
Several others with links to the North Korean propaganda apparatus, too, have been spared, with accounts including Koryo Media and others regularly sharing content from DPRK-linked propaganda outlet still live as of Wednesday local time.
The move will likely come as a shock to many North Korea-watchers, with the frequently-updated open-source Youtube content serving as a critical source of information on the closed-off country.
“Regardless of your political position, this is a ridiculous, counterproductive and depressing move,” Peter Ward, a writer and researcher focusing on the North Korean economy, told NK News.
“I understand that Youtube may have compliance concerns, but North Korean media should be freely accessible to all who wish to view it,” Ward — who has used open-source media available on Youtube for his research — continued.
“It’s a vital source for understanding the country, which people who care about the people of the North and the future of the Korean peninsula utilize on a daily (sometimes minute-by-minute basis).”
A similar move by Youtube in 2017 saw the company remove several major DPRK-related channels “for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines,” sparking widespread condemnation from DPRK researchers.
Additional reporting and editing by Colin Zwirko