The Disappearing: YouTube archives of the Syrian War

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When in summer 2017, YouTube adopted a new algorithm to flag and automatically remove any content considered graphic or supporting Jihadi propaganda, it inadvertently – to give the tech giant the benefit of the doubt – put at risk the entire history of the Syrian war. Thousands of YouTube channels and videos disappeared overnight, with little or no forewarning, thus undermining years-long efforts to document the unfolding conflict since 2011.

These disappearing archives not only attest to the fragility of the Syrian war’s digital memory since the peaceful uprisings started in Daraa, Hama, Aleppo and Homs, but to the inability of civil society and activist groups to sustain their documentations of human rights violations, thus putting at risk important evidence of crimes committed by all parties throughout the war.

This presentation will explore the costs of the Syrian activists’ over-reliance on the current affordances of digital platforms such as YouTube, and the challenges this precariousness poses for the attempted preservation of a digital memory of the Syrian war.

OxDeg Series Michaelmas 2018

Seminar Room, 1 St Giles

3.15pm, Fridays (Weeks 4, 6, 8)

Convened by William Kelly