YouTube Censors Another County Board Meeting for COVID Misinformation

September 14th, 2021 9:30 AM

YouTube strikes again! In yet another move restricting local government transparency and open communication, the online video platform censored a video of a Livingston County, Michigan, Board of Commissioners meeting.

YouTube reportedly removed the Board of Commissioners meeting on Aug. 9 citing its COVID-19 "misinformation" policy. The Board has a YouTube channel to reach the public more easily with its meetings. The meetings include a Call to the Public section for comments, which often question COVID-19 policies such as masking. YouTube and other tech giants have censored local government officials and meetings like the Livingston County Board at least 15 times since March 2021.

Commissioner Doug Helzerman wrote about the latest video removal in a column for the Aug. 15 Fowlerville News and Views. “A free society is based in part on the freedom to exercise our religion, freedom to publicly express our religious and secular ideas, freedom to put these ideas into written form so it may be distributed, as well as freedom to meet peaceably to encourage and enlighten others,” Helzerman wrote. “These ideals have wisely been put into the 1st Amendment of our constitution and are guaranteed to all citizens.”

Helzerman said the board meeting videos are a “public service” and expressed his belief that “internet giants” are acting like “control states” such as China and Cuba. “Our ‘Call to the Public’ is based on the First Amendment and we are only responsible to have a civil, peaceful meeting where every one may safely come to express their ideas. We are not ‘truth police,’” Helzerman wrote.

YouTube’s Medical Misinformation Policy severely restricts COVID-19 content, anything that allegedly “poses a serious risk of egregious harm.” The platform prohibits “Content that recommends use of Ivermectin or Hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19” and “Claims that wearing a mask is dangerous or causes negative physical health effects.” YouTube also prohibits “Claims about COVID-19 vaccinations that contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or WHO.”

YouTube said it does provide limited exceptions, but is unclear precisely what qualifies. Videos with “additional context” and “content showing an open public forum, like a protest or public hearing” are potential exceptions to YouTube’s policy, but the wording is vague. Livingston County Administrator Nathan Burd reportedly said YouTube denied an appeal of an April video removal and “has not specified what comments caused the infraction,” even though the video was of a local government’s public meeting.

The first violation of YouTube’s misinformation policy results in content removal. The second violation earns a strike, which temporarily freezes the account. If there are three strikes within 90 days, the channel in question “will be terminated.”

YouTube has censored several local government boards in 2021. Henderson County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina and Shawnee Mission School District both had videos of board meetings removed by YouTube this year. The April 13 Livingston County Board meeting was also reportedly removed by YouTube, based on violations of YouTube’s Medical Misinformation Policy.

YouTube’s policies suggest that it will allow “content showing an open public forum.” But that does not seem to apply to this local government board, perhaps especially if members of the public voice opinions with which YouTube does not agree.

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