After removing a dozen videos of city council and school board meetings that featured coronavirus vaccine misinformation, YouTube backpedaled last week and reinstated the videos after backlash from local officials.
YouTube took down at least a dozen videos posted by local government officials in multiple states in the past few weeks that featured misinformation, including claims that the coronavirus vaccine is killing people or that the virus isn’t a real problem, but reversed course and created an exception to its content moderation rules for local government meetings.
Local government officials in North Carolina, Washington state, and Kansas complained about YouTube’s censorship and the limiting of public access to government meetings thanks to YouTube’s removal of city council and school board meetings, the Washington Post reported.
The social media company has since updated its censorship guidelines to “make exceptions for videos of school board or town hall meetings, where the intention isn’t to promote misinformation,” it told the Washington Post at the end of last week.
At the heart of the issue are city council and school board meetings that have a designated time for public comment when members of the community can voice their opinions.
However, when these comments from private citizens are streamed on YouTube by local government social media accounts, they can run afoul of the platform’s strict content moderation rules involving coronavirus misinformation.
“While we have clear policies to remove harmful COVID-19 misinformation, we also recognize the importance of organizations like school districts and city councils using YouTube to share recordings of open public forums, even when comments at those forums may violate our policies,” YouTube said in a statement.
YouTube’s COVID-19 medical misinformation policy does not allow any content that spreads misinformation that contradicts local health authorities’ or the World Health Organization’s medical information about the coronavirus.
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Well-known media entities such as Sky News Australia and One America News have had content removed or have been suspended from the platform for spreading coronavirus misinformation.
However, defining what is and isn’t health misinformation is complicated and often in flux. Most medical experts and social media platforms, for example, did an about-turn regarding the theory that the coronavirus originated from a lab in Wuhan.
The lab leak theory was considered misinformation last year, including by the WHO and other respected health authorities. Now, it’s being seen as a credible possibility, including by the Biden administration.
Free speech advocates say that YouTube should be more careful and nuanced in how it applies its content moderation policies in regard to public forums and events.
“It walks back a rather paternalistic policy that allowed it to play the role of arbiter of the truth,” Clay Calvert, director of the University of Florida’s Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project, told the Washington Post.
“Other citizens — not those who are speaking up — also have a right to know what their neighbors are saying at such venues and to decide for themselves the merit of their views,” he added.
Some Republicans view YouTube’s censorship of local government meetings as a reason to find alternative online platforms to spread their message and engage with the community.
In North Carolina, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners chose to use a new video platform to stream its public meetings, according to the Washington Post.
Henderson County Republican Commissioner Rebecca McCall criticized YouTube for deciding what was or was not considered misinformation and wants her county’s school board to no longer buy computers from Google, which owns YouTube.
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“This is censorship. This is yes, a private company, but it is censorship. And a lot of people use this private company, which scares me, because they are deciding what information is shared,” McCall told the Hendersonville Times-News.
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Tags: News, Policy, YouTube, Social Media, Technology, Big Tech, Censorship, Misinformation, Vaccination
Original Author: Nihal Krishan
Original Location: YouTube eases up on COVID-19 misinformation censorship after local government backlash