YouTube has removed a video of a public health roundtable hosted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) with a panel of scientists and researchers who challenged the effectiveness of COVID-19 lockdowns and masks, claiming the discussion violated its Community Guidelines.
The roundtable, which took place at the state Capitol on March 18 and was streamed and posted to YouTube by WTSP-TV, featured former Trump White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, epidemiologist Professor Sunetra Gupta, and researchers Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and Dr. Martin Kulldorff.
The scientists and researchers discussed how public policy measures adopted during the pandemic to mitigate spread of the virus, including quarantining healthy people, shutting businesses down, and mandating mask-wearing, were inspired in part by fear rather than by scientific evidence.
Dr. Bhattacharya called lockdowns "the single biggest public health mistake in history" and argued they failed to protect vulnerable populations like senior citizens from contracting COVID-19. The panel discussed evidence that contradicted some studies that suggest lockdowns may have saved millions of lives globally.
The experts also disputed the effectiveness of mask-wearing, offering various opinions that differed from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for preventing spread of COVID-19.
Jeffrey A. Tucker, writing for the American Institute for Economic Research, was the first to notice that YouTube had removed the video.
"With no warning, no announcement, and no explanation, YouTube on April 7, 2021, suddenly deleted the entire video from its platform," Tucker wrote Wednesday. "Once hosted by WTSP Tampa Bay, an NBC affiliate, it originally appeared as embedded in a story on WTSP.com."
"AIER embedded that same video on our story about the event, along with the first and still the only full transcript of the event. In the late afternoon, the video appeared completely blanked out," he reported.
Tucker harshly criticized YouTube's actions.
"When the CDC and WHO began to contradict themselves on many issues, among which included immunities and their source, YouTube took a different direction, curating the 'science' themselves and deleting any video that its employees didn't like," he wrote.
"This policy has now run afoul of the basic needs of public health messaging, science, and sound policy decision making, even to the point of removing a serious forum of a popular government along with his scientific advisors from Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford universities."
YouTube's Community Guidelines state the platform "doesn't allow content about COVID-19 that poses a serious risk of egregious harm."
The website bans "content that spreads medical misinformation that contradicts local health authorities' or the World Health Organization's (WHO) medical information about COVID-19." Such content may be related to treatment, prevention, diagnosis, transmission, social distancing and quarantine guidelines, or the existence of COVID-19.
Reached for comment, YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez said the video was removed "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."
"We allow videos that otherwise violate our policies to remain on the platform if they contain sufficient educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic context. Our policies apply to everyone, and focus on content regardless of the speaker or channel," Hernandez added.
YouTube cited examples from the video that violated its Community Guidelines, including comments from Drs. Kulldorff, Bhattacharya, and Atlas about how children do not need to wear masks in school.
"I think it is developmentally inappropriate and it just doesn't help on the disease spread," said Dr. Bhattacharya. "I think it's absolutely not the right thing to do ... I think is a little bit clearer because we've had a year of experience. If we went back a year, a lot of the experts would say that wearing masks for the general public is not evidence-based."
Dr. Atlas added later, "There's no scientific rationale or logic to have children wear masks in schools."
The YouTube spokesperson did not clarify if other videos of the March 18 roundtable, such as this one posted by NBC 6 South Florida, will also be removed.
TheBlaze also reached out to WTSP-TV and Governor Ron DeSantis' office with requests for comment.
Editor's Note: This article was updated at 3:15 p.m. ET on 4/8/2021 to include comments from YouTube.