Syria's civil war has been one of the modern world's most brutal conflicts and one of its most heavily filmed. Hundreds of thousands of amateur videos uploaded to YouTube document every heartbeat of the war over the past seven years, from momentous events like cities under bombardment to intimate scenes like a father cradling his dead children.
Syrian activists fear all that history could be erased as YouTube moves to rein in violent content. In the past few months, the tech giant has implemented new policies to remove material considered graphic or supporting terrorism, and hundreds of thousands of videos from the conflict suddenly disappeared without notice.
Activists say crucial evidence of human rights violations risks being lost - as well as an outlet to the world that is crucial for them.
Activists are rushing to set up alternative archives, but they also recognize nothing can replace YouTube because of its technological infrastructure and global reach.
"It is like we are writing our memories not in our own book but in a third party's book. We don't have control of it," said Hadi al-Khatib, co-founder of the Syrian Archive, a group founded in 2014 to preserve open source evidence of crimes committed by all sides of the Syrian conflict.
Based on his database and review of around 900 groups and individuals, al-Khatib said some 180 channels connected to Syria were shut since June.
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