(Headline USA) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attacked YouTube and its parent company, Google, on Monday, accusing the tech giant of censorship for its decision last week to remove from its platform video of a coronavirus discussion he organized where his panel criticized lockdowns and some mask wearing as ineffective.
DeSantis said YouTube’s contention that video of the March 18 panel violates its ban on the posting of disinformation is an attempt to stifle dissent against the federal government’s pandemic response.
That discussion included Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist who was a coronavirus adviser to former President Donald Trump, and other physicians who support DeSantis’ decision to open Florida’s economy with few restrictions.
The censorship is part of a broader attack by social media giants, including Facebook and Twitter, to suppress conservative critics of left-wing, globalist dogma and gaslighting on topics such as vote fraud during the 2020 election, the Jan. 6 uprising at the US Capitol, the mistreatment and sexual abuse of unaccompanied minors in border detention facilities, and the corrupt business deals of the Biden family.
During a time of considerable uncertainty and debate over the virus and the trade off between personal liberties and quarantine measures, the companies first began rolling out the aggressive “fact checks” and overt bans on content that previously had only been shadow-banned.
Even though many of the claims made by skeptics have later been validated by scientific evidence, the companies now find themselves in a difficult position and, in many cases, have doubled down on the earlier lie.
“Google/YouTube has not been throughout this pandemic repositories of truth and scientific inquiry, but have instead acted [as] enforcers of a narrative, a big tech council of censors in service of the ruling elite,” DeSantis said during a Tallahassee press conference with Atlas and other doctors who were on his earlier panel.
YouTube claimed it took down the DeSantis panel video because some participants said children should not wear masks because they are ineffective at that age and a possible health hazard. YouTube said that contradicts U.S. government guidelines that say children 2 and older should wear masks in public and when around people they don’t live with.
“YouTube has clear policies around COVID-19 medical misinformation to support the health and safety of our users,” the company said in a statement Monday. “We removed this video because it included content that contradicts the consensus of local and global health authorities regarding the efficacy of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Like many of the arbitrary guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those have shifted during the course of the pandemic.
Only last week, the CDC finally acknowledged that, due to the airborne virus not transmitting easily by hard surfaces, things like hand sanitizer and Lysol were pointless. However, the guidelines about using sterilization agents remain posted on the CDC guidelines despite the contradictory change.
DeSantis has been successful in keeping Florida open for business. But many virtue-signaling corporations have refused to respect the governor’s orders, instead forcing citizens to comply by the restrictions that other, less successful states have implemented.
One of the most alarming ones on the horizon is the requirement of “vaccine passports” requiring that customers show proof of having been vaccinated.
DeSantis also wants the Florida Legislature to pass a bill that could make it harder for the Silicon Valley companies to remove users they say violate their rules.
Atlas compared YouTube’s decision removing the video to the Soviet Union and China, where communist governments banned opinions the rulers disagreed with.
“There is nothing more dangerous than being able to censor what is said in a country because you are never even going to hear the truth,” Atlas said.
YouTube and its supporters insist that it is a private business and not a government body and is under no obligation to host information it feels violate its rules and standards.
“Our policies apply to everyone, and focus on content regardless of the speaker,” it said.
But the decision to prohibit particular types of content puts the company in violation of the Communications Decency Act, which affords special liability protections to online user-based platforms with the understanding that they keep censorship to a minimum.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently suggested that the companies should be regulated more like utilities, similar to phone companies.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat who hopes to challenge the popular governor next year, called his comments “unhinged, dangerous rhetoric” in a hastily released statement.
“Over the course of a year in which 2 million Floridians have been sickened, 34,000 have died, and 1 million have lost jobs, this Governor has blamed everyone including the media, Hispanic farmworkers, China, and ‘Big Tech,’ while taking no responsibility for hiding data, silencing critics, and lying to Floridians,” she said.
The overall COVID mortality rate of Florida is in the lower 50% of all US states, despite its relatively large population, and is around the same as the common flu at 0.16% (159 per 100,000).
Some states that had tougher lockdowns like New York and New Jersey have much higher rates of about 260 per 100,000—but were also hit harder early in the pandemic before restrictions could take affect and before medical treatments for the disease were improved.
California, which DeSantis also likes to cite as a lockdown failure, has a slightly lower death rate of 153 per 100,000.
However, the severity of its lockdowns, which have targeted small businesses and churches even as Gov. Gavin Newsom defies his own lockdown orders, has led to a recall referendum of the governor and has wrecked the state’s economy.
Over the past week, Florida’s daily death rate per capita has been lower than those three states.
DeSantis on Monday also touted the state’s vaccination efforts. According to the Florida health officials, 7.2 million residents have received at least one dose, about 40% of adults. About 4.4 million are fully vaccinated. That’s 25% of adults.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press