Swedish daily newspaper Expressen has during the week reported that Youtube – which is owned by Google – has continued spreading a video showing Bo Nilsson, a politician for the neo-Nazi movement NMR, wearing a symbol for Nazi Germany.
Bo Nilsson was found guilty in court for minor agitation against an ethnic group. The video was still available for users after his conviction and was not removed until Expressen’s report was published.
Expressen currently investigates what content is available on Youtube. The findings have included hate as well as threats and anti-semitism.
Svante Weyler, a publisher and chair of the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism, called the list similar to what was gathered historically.
– This list is one of an old classical tradition, that Nazis and anti-semites prepare lists so that when the political climate changes they know who to pick, who to send away, who to kill. That’s what they did previously and why would they not do it again?
Google: ”Youtube has clear policies”
The writer Göran Rosenberg, one of those exposed on the list, said he didn’t know what measures to take to prevent such information to be published.
– For my own peace I try not to think of it. It is clear, however, that we are in a new situation when this kind of propaganda can be spread freely and reach anyone, anywhere, he told Expressen.
First Google’s country director for Sweden, Anna Wikland, did not respond to requests for comment on what responsibility Google has.
The company’s communications director Farshad Shadloo declined to comment on specific clips or channels but said Google has explicit policies.
– Generally speaking, content clearly breaching copyright laws, harassment or encourages violence against individuals or groups is unacceptable to us.
– Youtube has clear policies defining what and what is not allowed on our platform. Our users have the possibility of flagging content. If this appear to be breaching our policies or local legislation we will act.
Channel of far-right network Granskning Sverige taken down
In respons to Expressen's reports Youtube decided to shut down the far-right network Granskning Sverige’s channel after publishing photos restricted by copyright laws. Several other accounts linked to the network were still active.
Svante Weyler said he believed Google has a responsibility for enabling users to find the information through its search engine.
– If Google’s Swedish officials refuses to talk about this it means they dare not to. I can’t see it in any other way. Or, that they would approve of it, because if they don’t they approve. I have long believed there is an unbelievable naivety.
Swedens Minister of Justice Morgan Johansson said the government has tackled the growing online abuse and introduced new legislation:
– If a crime is committed it needs to be reported to the police. This also applies to crime on the internet and on social media. The government has recently reformed legislation. We have introduced a new criminal offence, called unlawful breach of integrity, to ban posting sensitive images on the internet as well as reformed regulation making Social Media firms responsible for deleting threats spread on their platforms.
– The government welcomes a dialogue with Google, Youtube as well as other platforms on self-regulatory measures as well as acting more responsibly for deleting illegal content. The Government will invite TU (Swedish Media Publishers’ Association) to get an idea of what problems they have faced in contacts with the platforms.
Judges call for improved measures
Following Expressen’s reports several judges have called for improved measures to prevent Youtube users from harassing and threatening lawyers and journalists through the platform’s channels.
– We have discussed this and agree that we will act against these firms when there are severe cases, President of the Swedish Court of Appeal Fredrik Wersäll told the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Expressen and Dagens Nyheter have, over several days, exposed how Youtube refrain from taking action on content that violates its “User Content and Conduct Policy”, stipulated by Google.
Members of the Swedish Parliament have already called for legislative action against Google. The company was also criticised by the board of the Swedish Union of Journalists and the Swedish Media Publisher’s Association, both insisting on an overhaul of laws as well as urging Google to accept its responsibility.
No answers at a big gala
Wednesday evening, Expressen again tried to ask questions to the company's Sweden manager Anna Wikland, when she attended the gala "The most powerful woman celebrating 20 years" at the famous Berns Salonger in Stockholm.
But Google's galadressed Swedish boss choosed to escape the issues.
One day later she decided to comment on the matter:
– This is very complexed. We have a big team at Youtube working on it, says Anna Wikland, the companys Sweden manager.
After the account of Gransking Sverige was shot down, they were back later that evening on Youtube again - through a new channel.
This time it was Fabian Fjälling and a person who calls himself Johan Andersson who sent a conversation about Google's decision to close the account, an account that Johan Andersson had started.
"A threat to our open society”
Now Swedish politicians react to Expressen's disclosure.
- It's deeply unfortunate and a threat to our open society and these individuals, said the Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund.
He means that you must now put pressure on Google.
– They must tell how they look at this. Do they think this is okay, then let's move on and discuss. I assume that even they think this is embarrassing, he says.
Interview with the Prime Minister
In an interview with Expressen on Thursday, the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that even though the situation is serious, there are no current plans of legislative measures on how to stop antisemitic content being spread through Google's platforms.
– We also have to be careful not to overstep any legal boundaries in handling this, the Prime Minister said after a press conference.
At the same time, it-experts are proposing relatively simple technical measures to rid Youtube and Google from antisemitic and illegal content.
– Both Google and Facebook are caretakers of our democracy – these are really questions regarding democracy, says Annika Lidne, it-strategist.
Holocaust survivor on Google
Holocaust survivor Max Safir, 92, is upset that anti-semitic directories of Swedish jews are so easily accessible on Google.
Upon being shown a list that describes people of jewish descent as ”threats”, and that is openly ridiculing holocaust survivors, Safir says he is very disappointed.
– And angry. It reminds me of the time before the nazis took power, Safir says.