Macklemore pro-Palestine anthem faces YouTube 'shadow ban'

Macklemore pro-Palestine anthem faces YouTube 'shadow ban'
Macklemore's song in solidarity with Gaza has been age restricted on YouTube, with a "violence" warning imposed
4 min read
09 May, 2024
Macklemore performs during The Innings Festival at Tempe Beach Park on February 24, 2024 in Tempe, Arizona (Photo by John Medina/Getty Images)

US rapper Macklemore's latest pro-Palestine anthem has been slapped with age restriction limitations and graphic violence warning pop-ups on YouTube, leading to a backlash against the video-sharing platform, which is a subsidiary of Google.

The song, titled ‘Hind’s Hall’, paid tribute to Hind Rajab, a six-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed by Israeli forces in  Gaza City while trapped in her family’s car in January.

Since its release across all social media platforms earlier this week, the song has received widespread acclaim amongst pro-Palestine supporters. Macklemore performed it live for the first time in New Zealand on Wednesday evening.

However YouTube added an age restriction and "graphic and violent content" warning to the video and the song does not appear when its title is entered into YouTube's search bar. 

Social media users were quick to flag this on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

They accused YouTube of "censorship" of pro-Palestine content and said that it was employing double standards, pointing out that pro-Israel material was not being treated in the same way and was often promoted by the site.

"So YouTube age restricts Macklemore new song on Gaza but has allowed Israeli war propaganda ads to run for months in service of genocide? Big Tech has blood on their hands,"  Marwa Fatafta, digital rights organisation Access Now's MENA Policy and Advocacy Director, said in a post on X.

"Since October 7 they have been profiteering from mass slaughter while silencing protesting voices," she added.

Age restriction and shadowbanning

Tech rights organisation Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it was difficult to determine whether YouTube used its Terms of Service to censor the song for being pro-Palestine, adding it is a complex issue.

"By YouTube’s guidelines, the video appears to fall within a grey area, so this is a tricky one on face," Jillian York, EFF's Director for International Freedom of Expression, told The New Arab.

"That said, I can say that I think the reason for the disproportionate targeting is that this a hot-button issue and so the video is being reported more than others."

York reiterated that as long as YouTube clearly states that age restrictions have been implemented on any content which depicts violence, this is not considered shadowbanning.

However, she questioned whether the YouTube limitation for the 'Hind's Hall' video was appropriately justified for other reasons.

York added Macklemore's content would be deemed as "newsworthy" as the two-minute clip was complied using news sources- with such content potentially affected by decreasing viewer circulation.

"Placing an age restriction on a video like Macklemore’s can certainly restrict viewership, though it’s hard to say by how much," York said.

"It’s good that YouTube is being transparent to users with respect to how and why it’s restricting the video, but it’s important that companies don’t create too many barriers to restricting newsworthy content."

A spokesperson for YouTube told The New Arab that an age restriction limit is applied, instead of removing violent or graphic content, if such content provides context to understand the footage such as documenting warzones.

The platform added that a combination of people and technology help to enforce the guidelines- with technology detecting the scale of content and humans needed to make "contextual decisions" in accordance with YouTube guidelines. 

"We age-restricted this video in accordance with our violent or graphic content policies," a YouTube spokesperson said.

"Sometimes content doesn’t violate our policies, but it may not be appropriate for viewers under 18 and we may age-restrict it."

Macklemore performs in New Zealand

Macklemore performed Hind's Hall live live for the first time in New Zealand's capital, Wellington on Wednesday evening.

"I stand here today and every day forward for the rest of my life in solidarity with the people of Palestine, with an open heart, in the belief that our collective liberation is at stake," he said. 

As he performed the song, the colours of the Palestinian flag flashed across the stadium and behind him clips showing the student protests against the war on Gaza played. 

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An audience of over 5,500 audience joined him in singing the song and waving the keffiyeh, the chequered scarf which has come to symbolise Palestinian resilience, solidarity and struggle.

At the end of his performance he led a chant calling for the freedom of Palestinians and called for a ceasefire. 

Some critics have pointed out that while his song has faced restrictions on YouTube, one of Israel's highest streamed songs of 2023, Harbu Darbu by Israeli rap duo Ness Ve Stilla, allegedly called for the deaths of famous Arab and pro-Palestine women including, Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa and Mia Khalifa. 

Since its release, the controversial song has gone on to be viewed 23 million times on YouTube.