by UnHerd Staff
Tuesday, 26
October 2021
Video
17:30

Ash Sarkar: Left and Right must unite against tech censorship

Freddie Sayers spoke to the Novara editor about her channel's disappearance from YouTube
by UnHerd Staff


Earlier today, a YouTube channel with 167,000 subscribers and over 40 million views vanished. It was one of the UK’s best known Left-wing political websites, which according to the outlet is ‘among the top 50 most watched news and politics channels in the UK’.

The channel was Novara Media, which was mysteriously reinstated by YouTube two hours later.

Novara Media’s press statement

According to Novara’s senior editor Ash Sarkar, Novara had received no prior warning and one ‘strike’ (YouTube operates a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy) before the channel was removed:

We could only appeal in the way that everyone else can, which is that you reply to this anonymous email. You’re not even sure if there’s a human on the other side of it. And that’s why we thought that the only means that we have for getting an explanation is by going public and drumming up support.
- Ash Sarkar, UnHerdTV

On the role of Big Tech:

It’s a bad thing that private companies have got so much influence, but the fact is they do. And so when they do play such a key role in our democracy, and when they play such a key role in making sure that journalism can reach an audience, there needs to be some kind of democratically decided regulation of those platforms, because it has an impact on our democracy.
- Ash Sarkar, UnHerdTV

On lessons she has learned:

Well, I think that what you see there are people trying to make sense of a rapidly changing landscape and they’re kind of grasping for arguments which suit the thing that they’re trying to focus on at the time. And I know that I’ve certainly been guilty of doing that…we don’t have a political framework of treating these as public utilities, having some kind of democratic oversight, and people grasp for the nearest available argument… And I think that that is something which has been a weakness in my own politics, right. This is something which I’ve gotten wrong.
- Ash Sarkar, UnHerdTV

On the Left’s attitude to free speech:

There has been a censorious turn to the left. It’s no good denying it. And there has been, I think, a tendency to say, because this conversation has the potential to bring in viewpoints which we deem hateful and harmful, that this conversation shouldn’t be happening at all. That is something which I disagree with.
- Ash Sarkar, UnHerdTV

On Novara’s cross-political support:

What was really great is that support came from all sides of the political spectrum. Because it doesn’t matter where you are on some of the big issues of the day, we can all agree that an unaccountable American tech company having this much control of whether a fully regulated, British journalistic outfit is allowed to operate — that’s an incredibly sinister thing.
- Ash Sarkar, UnHerdTV

On the Trump ban:

Well, one of the things that I was saying at the time is that this isn’t something to celebrate. This is not something to just sort of go ‘woo, Trump, we don’t like him, he’s a racist, he’s a fascist. He’s currently corroding democratic norms. It’s a good thing that Twitter is able to just kick him off’, because I was like ‘well, what if next time, it’s a socialist president? What if next time it’s somebody on the left?’
- Ash Sarkar, UnHerdTV

Would Ash interview Anjem Choudray?

No, I absolutely would not. And the reason why I wouldn’t is because Anjem Choudary does not need to win the debate in order to have effects which I think are incredibly harmful in order to be able to recruit, in order to radicalise, and potentially turn people towards violence. He doesn’t need to win the debate.
- Ash Sarkar, UnHerdTV

On moving beyond the political divide:

This is much bigger than right versus left, UnHerd versus Novara, or anything else. What this is about is the ability of journalism to function, unimpeded by unaccountable tech giants. And that is something, it does matter where you are on the political spectrum, we all rely on journalism in order to make sense of ourselves socially, culturally, politically, it’s the lifeblood of a democracy. And if YouTube or Google or whoever else it is can just shut it off, no explanation, no justification, no warning. That is something incredibly dangerous indeed.
- Ash Sarkar, UnHerdTV

Join the discussion


  • “It (Novara Media) was not a fringe channel that platforms cranks, conspiracists and extremists,”

    LOL, Freddie its coming up for Halloween, not April Fools.

  • It will be broken up in the end.
    That was my initial instinct but I’ve read articles, and comments on Unherd, noting that the US’s major internet platforms are a counterbalance to China’s internet platforms, so the US government is reluctant to break them up and reduce their global clout. That makes sense.
    I’m guessing the possible solution to the problem of Big Tech overreach will be regulation. The most common proposal I’ve seen is establishing a government watchdog to impose content and moderation standards. Now the government decides what’s appropriate content and what isn’t. Seems like the cure might be as bad as the disease.
    Regulation of Big Tech is another issue I’d like to see Unherd cover.

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