TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing back after YouTube and its parent company Google removed a clip of a COVID-19 roundtable he held last month.
The video clip’s removal is adding more fuel to the calls to address big tech censorship.
During a March roundtable, the governor discussed downsides to lockdowns, contact tracing and even children wearing face masks.
“Children should not wear face masks, no,” Dr. Martin Kuldorff, a Harvard University professor of medicine, said at the roundtable.
YouTube cites that comment, another about face masks for children and a third comment questioning face masks’ overall effectiveness at reducing case rates for removing the roundtable discussion from its platform.
DeSantis wants the Florida Legislature to pass a bill that could make it harder for the companies to remove users they say violate their rules. Critics contend the proposal would have little impact as the companies transcend the state’s borders and would be challenged as violating the companies’ First Amendment rights.
“What we’re really witnessing is Orwellian,” DeSantis said Monday, referring to George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984.”
The governor doubled down Monday, bringing together the scientists for their reaction at another roundtable.
“You are entering into a phase of countries we used to criticize severely like the USSR, like Communist China,” said Dr. Scott Atlas, Robert Wesson Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University.
In an emailed statement, YouTube defended its decision.
“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,” a company spokesperson said.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that anyone age two and up wear face masks when social distancing isn’t possible, the World Health Organization recommends masks for only those age 12 and above.
There are exceptions for children aged six to 11 based on local case rates.
“They didn’t cite any data,” DeSantis told the panelists of YouTube’s decision. “They just cited that some of you had dissented from some other views. Well, you know, science in particular needs to have dissenting views aired.”
YouTube did not immediately respond to a follow-up about the WHO’s recommendation on children and masks.
The governor said the incident will likely result in an expansion of the scope of the social media censorship bill that is currently making its way through the Florida Legislature.
“Because, quite frankly, this is even more egregious than what I thought had been happening,” DeSantis said.
Progressive groups said they’re more concerned with the recommendations made by the governor’s experts than big tech censorship.
“Masks are harmful,” Damien Filer, a representative for Progress Florida, said. “That’s a quote from the last roundtable. Masks across the board are harmful.”
The social media censorship legislation would impose daily fines on platforms that censor political candidates. It would require social media platforms to make their policies clear and apply them consistently.