YouTube Quietly Changes COVID-19 Censorship Policy on Masks, Social Distancing, Vaccines

August 25th, 2022 4:21 PM

Follow the “science.” But what about when the “science” changes? Apparently Big Tech changes the censorship rules in the middle of the game.

Google-owned YouTube quietly changed its COVID-19 medical misinformation policy in significant ways within the past four months, particularly concerning masking, social distancing and COVID-19 vaccines.

Since April, YouTube changed its COVID-19 medical misinformation policy to remove penalties for criticizing government and personal practices around masking, social distancing and COVID-19 vaccines. The original policy had 71 guidelines restricting content, but the updated policy has only 64 guidelines. And while the platform appears to have reduced its speech constraints, the updated policy is still highly detailed and restrictive.

In April, YouTube banned content critical of masking to stop the spread of COVID-19, including: “Claims that wearing a mask causes oxygen levels to drop to dangerous levels,” and “Claims that masks do not play a role in preventing the contraction or transmission of COVID-19.” YouTube has since removed those bullet points.

The platform also finally nixed one of two bullet points that made it difficult to discuss COVID-19 vaccines. YouTube prohibited users from making “Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19,” but also disallowed “Claims that any medication or vaccination is a guaranteed prevention method for COVID-19.” The former has since disappeared from the policy.

YouTube also removed policy language that prohibited critiques of social distancing, including: “Videos alleging that social distancing and self-isolation are not effective in reducing the spread of the virus.”

In April, before the changes, the YouTube policy banned, “Claims that COVID-19 vaccines do not reduce risk of contracting COVID-19.” The updated policy now prohibits, “Claims that COVID-19 vaccines do not reduce risk of serious illness or death.”

MRC Free Speech America reported in October that YouTube Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy Leslie Miller testified during an Oct. 26 Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing that the Google-owned platform removed over 1 million videos containing alleged “COVID misinfo,” including over 130,000 videos on “Covid vaccine misinfo.” 

Will users censored under the old policy get any redress?

YouTube stifled public conversations on masking, social distancing and COVID-19 vaccines between citizens and their elected representatives. 

MRC Free Speech America’s unique CensorTrack database found that the platform removed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s conversation with former White House Coronavirus Task Force advisor Dr. Scott Atlas. Others affected by the policy include Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and the New Jersey State Senate

YouTube also silenced the content of concerned parents speaking at school board meetings. For example, the platform censored a Daily Signal video featuring Virginia mother Merianne Jensen and a Grabien video featuring Georgia mother Courtney Ann Taylor, each of whom vocally opposed masking children. YouTube also censored content from meetings of the Vancouver, Wash., school board, Union County, N.C., school board and Johnsburg (Ill.)  School District 12.

YouTube did not respond to MRC Free Speech America’s request for comment at the time of publishing

Conservatives are under attack. Contact YouTube here and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency and an equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us using CensorTrack’s contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.