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The story below, written by our partners at The Wall Street Journal, is all too familiar to the BizNews team. PANDA’s Nick Hudson was one of many speakers at the BizNews Investment Conference. His speech – which received plenty of positive feedback from delegates – was posted on the BizNews YouTube channel for all to see. After amassing over half a million views, the video-sharing platform decided to remove the video. Why? “YouTube doesn’t allow content that explicitly disputes the efficacy of local health authorities or World Health Organisation guidance on social distancing and self isolation”. According to The Wall Street Journal, this has become a rather common occurrence. The platform has removed a US senate hearing on unapproved Covid-19 treatments, an interview with the creators of The Great Barrington Declaration and many more. While these videos may include thoughts or opinions that go against what health authorities say, the real worry here is the censorship that YouTube practices. “Even the most committed lockdown and mask hawk should be outraged that YouTube is banishing videos that bear directly on democratic accountability, including taxpayer-funded public hearings. The company is courting a backlash that could well result in its regulation as a common carrier, or worse”. – Jarryd Neves
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YouTube’s Assault on Covid Accountability
The company scrubs a video of Florida Gov. DeSantis’s policy roundtable with physicians and scientists.
To hold elected representatives responsible for decisions they make, Americans need to know what those officials and their advisers are saying. That’s an essential democratic principle, and it’s as true for coronavirus response as any other policy challenge. So it’s chilling that Google’s YouTube, through its “medical misinformation policy,” appears to be systematically undermining the ability to access material in the public interest.
Last September, YouTube scrubbed a Hoover Institution interview with Scott Atlas, then one of President Trump’s coronavirus advisers. In January it censored a U.S. Senate committee hearing on unapproved coronavirus treatments. Now it has taken down a video of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holding a policy discussion with Dr. Atlas and the three creators of the Great Barrington Declaration, a group of physicians and scientists critical of strict lockdowns to fight the coronavirus.
In the hour-and-forty-five minute video, Mr. DeSantis and the four panelists lambaste the U.S. coronavirus response as excessively draconian and ineffective. They emphasize unintended public-health harms from lockdowns and school closures, criticize mask mandates and generally celebrate Florida’s response.
The video was shared in a story from a Tampa Bay, Fla., news station, and its removal from YouTube was first flagged by the American Institute for Economic Research. YouTube told us Thursday in a statement that it removed the video “because it included content that contradicts the consensus of local and global health authorities regarding the efficacy of masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”
As an example, YouTube points to a video passage where Gov. DeSantis asks one panelist, Harvard biostatistician Martin Kulldorff, whether children need to wear masks, and Mr. Kulldorff says no. Dr. Jay Battacharya of Stanford adds that masking for children is “developmentally inappropriate.” Gov. DeSantis notes, accurately, that “if we went back a year, a lot of the experts would say that wearing masks for the general public is not evidence-based.”
YouTube’s Orwellian standard for medical misinformation is information that contradicts “authorities.” But it’s not even clear that the panelists’ opposition to masking in children contradicts the World Health Organization, which says “children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks” and that “the decision to use masks for children aged 6-11” depends on context.
But whether the panelists’ views are right or wrong should not matter. Florida’s lighter-touch approach to Covid-19 is a topic of intense public debate, and this video offers a window into the thinking of the Governor and people who influence him. Even the most committed lockdown and mask hawk should be outraged that YouTube is banishing videos that bear directly on democratic accountability, including taxpayer-funded public hearings.
Consensus liberal opinion holds that concerns about Big Tech political censorship are manufactured. How much longer can that go on? Maybe not as long as Google thinks. The company is courting a backlash that could well result in its regulation as a common carrier, or worse, as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently suggested.
Appeared in the April 9, 2021, print edition
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