UPDATE: One report by The Verge confirmed that all YouTube's main channel pages were down and not just a select few. The cause is still pending.
Following the viral video footage created by Deadspin about pro-Trump media organization, Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) forcing their owned affiliates to read scripted attacks on other news organizations, Deadspin's YouTube channel page was generating a '500 internal server error' page.
As of this writing, it is unknown whether YouTube was being targeted by hackers. Many who are familiar with media outlets that have reported on pro-Trump or right-wing propaganda, might also have gone to the Liberal Media Matters 4 America YouTube channel, only to encounter the same error.
The Independent reported on a similar, though unrelated problem back in 2015 saying that the error was not affecting all users. But it's been reported that many users had taken to Twitter to report the problem with other channels as they also did on Monday, accessing other sites that were not seen as politically affiliated or critical of Sinclair's propagandistic endeavors.
CNN's coverage of the SBG featured Deadspin's viral video which synced up many of the anchors from SBG affiliates who were required to read the pro-Trump network's script. Overall, YouTube confirmed the issue via Twitter:
Seeing this 500 error message on YouTube? We're on it! pic.twitter.com/ArPDUDxUcp— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) April 2, 2018
Politico reported in December of 2016 that Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had secured a deal with the Sinclair Broadcast Group for more favorable coverage of Trump as a candidate. They reported that Kushner had made the deal during the campaign giving SBG more access to the candidate which he told to business executives on that Friday. According to SBG and other networks, there is nothing nefarious in the deal and pointed out that candidates have approached similar networks for more direct access in the past.
Fast forward to a Monday morning over a year later, President Trump took to his Twitter account to blast other media outlets for criticizing SBG saying in one of his seven tweets,
"So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke."
So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018
SBG Seizes Control of Biased View Message
In the mentioned Politico piece, the vice president of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Scott Livingston, said that their commitment to their viewers was to go beyond podium, beyond the rhetoric. He said that they were all about tracking the truth and telling the truth and claimed that was typically missing in most political coverage.
On March of 2017 only a month after Donald Trump's presidential inauguration, Livingston released the following statement to an NBC affiliate owned by the group in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Fast forward to early March of 2018, CNN reported that a local news anchor for an SBG affiliate complained to CNN that the script they were required to read was inappropriate and sounded like pro-Trump propaganda. The anchor told CNN that they all felt uncomfortable reading the script.
The reasons for why they felt it was pro-Trump is due to the fact that Donald Trump has viciously attacked the press for creating unfavorable coverage of him, being critical of his campaign and his presidency, calling them "fake news." Despite this, Trump has fired cabinet members, national security council officials, White House staff and other government officials for being critical of him and his decisions. Trump is also under investigation by a special prosecutor who has already filed charges against former members of his campaign staff and reportedly, being investigated for colluding with Russian officials during the campaign.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in late March, that the SBG-created promos the local anchors were required to read had finally been broadcast, one of them through Seattle's KOMO-TV show. KOMO-TV was the last locally owned station before Sinclair bought it after the defunct Seattle-based Fisher Communications sold it in April 2013.
The claim that other news networks are fake news continues to propagate through the Trump administration, among conservatives in Congress and Trump supporters in the public, despite the fact that Trump and his own support system have been found to create most of that fiction on their own.
Russian Threat Looms Over America
While there is no verification that hacking is in any way associated with the YouTube errors, similar error messages are generally seen by novice internet users as hacking attempts. Especially in light of reports of Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election and ever since. It was reported during the 2016 election that Kremlin-sanctioned hackers stole thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee in order to leak information about Hillary Clinton during her campaign.
Since then, more reports show various connections with Trump campaign officials who have engaged with Russian officials during the campaign and into the Trump presidency. The YouTube errors also come in light of the extradition of a Russian hacker to the United States, for the theft of 117 million LinkedIn passwords in 2012. Other reports this year showed that Russian operatives had also used Facebook in order to manipulate public opinion on behalf of the Trump campaign.
While the error generated from YouTube is not even remotely similar to a leak, Denial of Service (or DoS) attacks are common, basic hacking efforts made to disrupt traffic. Government officials have predicted that more hacking attempts will be made to sway political differences.
Survival Journalism has listed Scott Livingston as a traitor and enemy of the people.