YouTube banned news channel Sky News Australia for allegedly violating Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) misinformation guidelines. The channel’s temporary ban stemmed from videos questioning the effectiveness of face masks and lockdowns in stopping the spread of the highly infectious B16172 delta variant. The channel called the Google-owned video platform’s move an attack on press freedom and free speech.
Videos on Sky News Australia‘s channel were reportedly flagged by YouTube for involving “debates around whether masks were effective and whether lockdowns were justified.” The video-sharing network also flagged videos of commentators claiming that face masks did not work and questioning the frequency and mechanisms of COVID-19 lockdowns. YouTube remarked that the content that it flagged for review “could cause real-world harm” to the Sky News Australia channel’s 1.86 million subscribers.
A YouTube spokesman told the Daily Mail: “We have clear and established COVID-19 medical misinformation policies, based on local and global health authority guidance, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. He continued that these policies apply “equally for everyone regardless of uploader.” According to the spokesman, content “denying the existence of COVID-19” or “encouraging people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin” as treatments for SARS-CoV-2 were among the topics considered misinformation.
Sky News Australia meanwhile said it had found old videos that did not comply with YouTube policies and deleted them. A spokesperson for the news channel said: “We support broad discussion and debate on a wide range of topics and perspectives, which is vital to any democracy. We take our commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously.” However, the channel denied that any of its hosts claimed that COVID-19 did not exist.
Under YouTube’s three-strike policy, erring channels receive a week-long suspension. Another violation within 90 days after the first strike results in a longer two-week ban. A third violation merits permanent removal from the platform.
YouTube uses “misinformation” as an excuse to censor content
Sky News Australia Digital Editor Jack Houghton confirmed the temporary suspension in an Aug. 1 article. He wrote: “Sky News Australia has been temporarily suspended from posting on the Google-owned platform YouTube for publishing opinion content the tech giant disagrees with.” (Related: Now just mentioning “ivermectin” gets you banned on YouTube as Big Tech unleashes wholesale censorship of all covid treatments that might save lives.)
Houghton also noted that YouTube’s censorship appeared to center on suppressing conservative personalities and entities. “YouTube’s approach to policing debate around COVID-19 policies appears arbitrarily focused against conservative voices. It’s hard not to look at some of these tech giant censorship decisions as being biased on one factor – the political persuasion of the person making the comments.”
In the past, the video-sharing platform has censored a number of individuals and organizations under the guise of spreading COVID-19 misinformation. American epidemiologist Dr. Knut Wittkowski, formerly of Rockefeller University, was among these individuals suppressed by YouTube. The 65-year-old scientist was a staunch critic of government responses to the pandemic, such as lockdowns and social distancing.