YouTube has many ways to disincentivize speech.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attacked YouTube and its parent company Google on April 12, accusing the tech giant of censorship for its decision last week to remove from its platform video of a coronavirus discussion he organized where his panel criticized lockdowns and some mask wearing as ineffective.
DeSantis said YouTube’s contention that video of the March 18 panel violates its ban on the posting of disinformation is an attempt to stifle dissent against the federal government’s pandemic response. That discussion included Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist who was a coronavirus adviser to former President Donald Trump, and other physicians who support DeSantis’ decision to open Florida’s economy with few restrictions.
The attack is part of a bigger war DeSantis and other Republicans are waging against social media giants, including Facebook and Twitter, contending they discriminate against conservatives.
“Google/YouTube has not been throughout this pandemic repositories of truth and scientific inquiry, but have instead acted (as) enforcers of a narrative, a big tech council of censors in service of the ruling elite,” DeSantis said during a Tallahassee press conference with Atlas and other doctors who were on his earlier panel.
YouTube says it took down the DeSantis panel video because some participants said children should not wear masks because they are ineffective at that age and a possible health hazard. YouTube said that contradicts U.S. government guidelines that say children 2 and older should wear masks in public and when around people they don’t live with.
“YouTube has clear policies around COVID-19 medical misinformation to support the health and safety of our users,” the company said in a statement Monday. “We removed this 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.”
DeSantis wants the Florida Legislature to pass a bill that could make it harder for the companies to remove users they say violate their rules. Critics contend the proposal would have little impact as the companies transcend the state’s borders and would be challenged as violating the companies’ First Amendment rights.
Atlas compared YouTube’s decision removing the video to the Soviet Union and China, where communist governments banned opinions the rulers disagreed with.
“There is nothing more dangerous than being able to censor what is said in a country because you are never even going to hear the truth,” Atlas said.