Robot makers and builders are calling out YouTube for taking down videos of robot fights for allegedly depicting animal cruelty.
Multiple YouTube creators, including many who have been contestants on the TV competition BattleBots, received emails from YouTube notifying them that some of their robot-fighting videos have been taken down from the platform. According to these robot builders, YouTube wrote to creators that their videos were taken down for showing “the deliberate infliction of animal suffering or the forcing of animals to fight.”
“Today is a sad day,” one affected robot maker, Jamison Go, wrote on Facebook. “Robot builders across the world cried out in agony as YouTube’s algorithm falsely identified personal videos of robot sport as ‘animal cruelty’ and ‘cock fighting’. Today I lost nine videos but others lost hundreds or more.”
Another creator, named Sarah Pohorecky, told VICE that one of her videos was recently removed, and that her account was given a strike for violating YouTube policies.
Many of the robot-building videos have since been reinstated on YouTube. YouTube said these robot-building videos were “mistakenly removed,” and issued a statement that the platform regularly uses when it reinstates videos it has previously decided to delete:
With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it. We also offer uploaders the ability to appeal removals and we will re-review the content.
Here is one of the robot-fighting videos that YouTube originally said depicted animal cruelty:
YouTube’s content moderation policies have been widely criticized. Previous to drawing the ire of robot builders, YouTube has been critiqued for failing to remove videos containing hate speech, favoring its money-making top stars, inadequately protecting children on its platform, and demonetizing LGBTQ content.