DeSantis Accuses YouTube Of Censorship For Removing Video Labeled As Misinformation

Apr 12, 2021

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis accused YouTube of censorship Monday for removing an earlier video in which he and some public health experts spread what YouTube has labeled as misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. 

Monday’s event, which was billed as a COVID-19 roundtable, centered around claims that tech platforms and the media were silencing certain ideas, like that children should not wear masks. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does recommend mask-wearing for children over the age of 2, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends it in children over the age of 12. 

YouTube last Wednesday removed a video from March 13 in which DeSantis spoke with radiologist and former White House advisor Scott Atlas, economist Jay Bhattacharya, biostatistician Martin Kulldorff and epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta, all of whom have spoken previously against the medical consensus on things like lockdowns and mask-wearing. 

Bhattacharya, Kulldorff and Gupta are co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, which recommends an approach they call Focused Protection: The Middle Ground between Lockdowns and “Let it Rip.”

The anti-lockdown manifesto espouses a herd-immunity strategy which has been called “dangerous” and “unethical” by the WHO

DeSantis decried the decision by YouTube to remove the video. “Now Google YouTube has not been, throughout this pandemic, repositories of truth and scientific inquiry, but instead have acted as enforcers of a narrative, a big-tech council of censors in service of the ruling elite,” he said. 

In a statement to The Tampa Bay Times, a YouTube spokesperson said some comments in the video violated its standards about medical misinformation.

“Our policies apply to everyone, and focus on content regardless of the speaker or channel,” the spokesperson said. 

Bhattacharya likened YouTube’s decision to political oppression. “You are entering into a phase of countries that we used to criticize severely, like the USSR, like communist China,” he said. “I mean, this is almost the end of our civilization if we have this sort of censorship, I’m afraid.”

DeSantis and Republicans in Tallahassee are pushing legislation that would limit social media companies’ ability to block users from their platforms. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.