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18 Jun, 2019 17:00

Eliot Higgins’ Bellingcat channel suspended by YouTube, then quickly restored

Eliot Higgins’ Bellingcat channel suspended by YouTube, then quickly restored

YouTube claimed another victim in its ongoing account-banning spree on Tuesday, this time targeting internet sleuth and open-source “investigator” Eliot Higgins.

The Bellingcat founder tweeted that his YouTube channel had been suspended and complained that social media companies seemed to be “having a go at open source investigator” accounts. “It’s not like they don’t know who Bellingcat is,” he fretted in a subsequent tweet.

The account was suspended after a review, “due to repeated or severe violations” of the community guidelines, according to a screenshot posted by Higgins.  

The worry was short-lived however. Less than two hours later, the NATO golden boy had his account restored — so he can continue investigating international incidents and war crimes from the comfort of his living room in Leicester.

Higgins, a former underwear salesman with no military background or expertise in weapons analysis, shot to Western Media fame when he began blogging the results of his open-source “investigations” — which somehow always pinned the blame on Russia or another convenient Western adversary. His diligent work caught the eye of the NATO-funded Atlantic Council, which was eager to throw money at him to keep the “research” flowing.

Also on rt.com Twitter wars spill out onto the streets as Bellingcat’s Higgins meets Graham Phillips

Why Higgins’ account was suspended remains a mystery. Perhaps someone at YouTube just made a terrible mistake — and the speed with which the account was restored indicates a swift intervention from Higgins and his influential friends.

But there’s plenty of reasons why Higgins remains controversial, ban or no ban.

When Higgins assessed that the Syrian government was behind a chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhoun in 2017, his analysis was challenged by MIT professor and chemical weapons expert Theodore Postol. In his own 14-page report, Postol concluded that the Western analysis“cannot be true.” Higgins, who enjoys lobbing insults on Twitter, maturely branded Postol an “idiot” and refused invitations to debate him. When Higgins finally agreed to a debate, Postol accused him of fabricating data and fairly easily showed the Bellingcat founder to be a charlatan.

Higgins also claimed that Russia had launched rockets into eastern Ukraine in 2014 during fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist militias. To ‘prove’ it, he analysed aerial images to assess the impact craters — but again was challenged by a genuine professional, weapons expert Stephen Johnson, who said crater analysis is “highly experimental and prone to inaccuracy.”

They’re not the only experts to challenge Higgins. Defense and security analyst Richard Galustian told RT in 2015 that Higgins is a complete fraudster and an “armchair analyst” who relies on unverifiable and potentially “manipulated” social media sources.

Also on rt.com ‘Suck my balls’: NATO-funded blogger Eliot Higgins checkmates critics with watertight argument

When Higgins conducted “analysis” of Russian satellite data released after the downing of MH17 Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine in 2014, claiming they had been manipulated, his investigative skills were called into question again. German image forensics expert Jens Kriese told Der Spiegel magazine that “from the perspective of forensics” the Bellingcat approach is not very robust and is “nothing more than reading tea leaves.”

If the tea leaves always happen to say “Russia did it,” it’s unlikely that the NATO money will dry up any time soon. In the meantime, perusers of Higgins’ newly-restored YouTube channel would be well-advised to take his investigations with a large pinch of salt.

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