Nikola Tries To Censor Its Critics On YouTube Using Copyright Complaints

Embattled EV maker Nikola appears to be in the midst of a damage control campaign that includes trying to claw back some of its online image and credibility that it once had. As part and parcel with this strategy, the company is reportedly taking a stance against its YouTube critics, “forcing the removal of several videos on YouTube over alleged copyright infringement issues,” according to EV blog Teslarati.

The report, originally produced by Financial Times, asserts that numerous channels on YouTube that are known for discussing the market or electric vehicles have all received takedown notices related to content about Nikola. Several videos have been removed from the platform, according to the same report. 

“Another large corporation uses YouTube’s copyright system to silence criticism,” one blog wrote. 

One vlogger, Sam Alexander, says he received notifications on Wednesday that “at least four of his videos” were reported for copyright infringement. The four videos in question all featured clips of Nikola’s “Nikola One In Motion” video, which was revealed by short seller Hindenburg Research – and confirmed by the company – to be video of a semi truck rolling down a hill without the power of a working powertrain, despite the video description listing the Nikola One as having “1,000 HP”. 

Another content creator, Tom Nash (pictured above courtesy of ReclaimTheNet.org), said he was “required to take down three critical Nikola videos” including one that featured the same video of the Nikola One rolling down the hill. Nash has 41,000 subscribers on his channel. 

Nash commented about the copyright strikes to the Financial Times: “It’s what you would call a death sentence for a creator. This is my livelihood. I have three kids. I quit my job to do this.” But as of now, the strikes are having the opposite effect that they sought out, as the company’s critics seem emboldened to speak out further due to the censorship.

Nikola seemed to try and blame the issue on YouTube, stating that “YouTube identifies copyright violations and shares this data with the company” and that, based on this data, the company submitted takedown notices against videos that use their content without permission. 

Nikola said: “YouTube regularly identifies copyright violations of Nikola content and shares the lists of videos with us. Based on YouTube’s information, our initial action was to submit takedown requests to remove the content that was used without our permission. Going forward, we will evaluate these flagged videos on a case-by-case basis.”

But YouTube disputed this explanation to the FT, saying that the platform doesn’t proactively remove videos and that the company would have to fill out a copyright removal request: “Nikola has access to our copyright match tool, which does not automatically remove any videos. Users must fill out a copyright removal request form, and when doing so we remind them to consider exceptions to copyright law. Anyone who believes their reuse of a video or segment is protected by fair use can file a counter-notice.” 

For reference, the video that Nikola posted to its official YouTube account in 2018 looked like this:

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