The YouTube account of the Austrian filmmaker and artist Oliver Ressler was suspended last Monday (2 August) for "repeated violations", he says. YouTube issued Ressler with a message warning that "spams, scams or commercially deceptive material are not allowed on YouTube". The artist says that no such material had been uploaded to his channel, that no prior warnings about such violations had been received and accuses the video sharing platform of censoring his work. "I think [the account] has been taken down due to the content, so it is censorship," Ressler tells The Art Newspaper. YouTube had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.
Ressler creates political and environmental documentaries. The works, which he says follow journalistic standards, frequently feature dissenting content such as footage from protests. These have included the ZAD (zone à défendre) encampment in France in the film Everything's Coming Together While Everything's Falling Apart: the ZAD (2017), which aimed to prevent the building of an airport near Nantes and lead to the suspension of building plans. Other films such as The Visible and the Invisible (2014) and The Bull Laid Bear (2012) expose the underlying mechanisms of capitalism and the finance sector.
These films, alongside tens of others made over a 20 year period, have been shown at some of the biggest museums and biennials in the world without censure, in countries including the US, UK, France, Italy, Serbia, Russia and China. They remain accessible on the artist's Vimeo account.
Ressler began uploading his catalogue of work to YouTube last year. The artist believes that the online video sharing platform, which has been owned by Google since 2006, has removed his account because of its anti-capitalist content.
It is not the first time a left-leaning YouTube channel has been removed. In the case of The Serfs (who had their channel removed twice in 2019 and 2021) and Three Arrows (removed in 2019), their pages were reinstated after appeals and widespread protests on social media. In July, the channel The Sane Society published an anti-racist video that was deleted due to alleged "hate speech". "Given the history of channels being deleted in the past, this would appear as part of a trend towards censorship by algorithms that impair free speech," says Ressler.
Ressler has questioned the decision to remove his account through YouTube's appeals procedure; it currently remains blocked.