Video of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and a panel of scientists apparently trading in Covid-19 misinformation has been pulled from YouTube.
The video of DeSantis’ roundtable discussion last month at the state Capitol in Tallahassee was removed on Wednesday because it violated the social media platform’s standards, YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez said.
It had been embedded in a Tampa-area TV station's news story and it's removal was flagged by the American Institute for Economic Research, a "free market" think tank based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
“YouTube has clear policies around Covid-19 medical misinformation to support the health and safety of our users,” Hernandez said in a statement. “We removed AIER’s 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.”
Hernandez said YouTube only allows 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 said.
Facebook on Thursday was ripped by politicians on both sides of the pond for “showing its true and ugly colors” and “arrogance” with its ban of reports on whether COVID-19 came from a lab in Wuhan — and for reversing course only after the theories became “fashionable with the liberal elite.”
The social media giant has long quashed reports questioning if the virus leaked from the Chinese lab — including slapping “False Information” warnings on an op-ed that ran in The Post last year, long before the contagion was officially declared a pandemic.
It eventually issued an all-out ban of such posts, claiming the theories had been “debunked” — only to lift it this week when President Biden ordered US intelligence agencies to investigate claims long touted by his predecessor, President Trump.
“The arrogance of Facebook to decide where and how precisely covid originated, and who should be able to talk about it, is stunning. But sadly typical,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) wrote on Twitter.
Other Republicans also agreed the move raised questions about the power wielded by social media giants.
“This is another example of the dangers of Big Tech suppressing free speech and raises the question of why Facebook banned these posts in the first place. We need answers!” Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tennessee) tweeted.
Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) added, “Facebook just announced they won’t censor post by people saying that #COVID19 was man made and came from the Wuhan lab.”
“I think it is absolutely contemptible and it shows their commitment to democracy is an incredibly thin veneer over their commercial interests,” UK Member of Parliament Bob Seely told the Daily Mail Thursday of Facebook’s sudden about-face.
“So many big tech firms are showing their true and frankly really ugly colors,” he said.
“This is not a conspiracy theory. There is a genuine debate about where the Wuhan virus came from,” Seely said of concerns over the Wuhan Institute of Virology, whose now-notorious “Bat woman” director researches viruses similar to the one causing COVID-19.
“For Facebook to be shutting that conversation down is absolutely appalling,” he said.
The company should “re-embrace freedom of speech and understand their job is not to censor people but to provide a platform where people within the law can express themselves and ideas freely,” he said.
“I suggest they get back to that function rather than trying to ingratiate themselves with China or anyone else,” he said.
Fellow conservative MP Peter Bone also told the outlet that Facebook is only an “open platform” for people who “agree with Facebook.”
“Their decisions are based on politics, not on principle … if it is fashionable with the liberal elite, it can go down,” he told the outlet.
“The thing that Trump was saying is exactly the same as Biden is saying, but Trump was, according to Facebook, not allowed to say that. Whereas, everyone loves Biden from Facebook — therefore it must be right,” he said.
“If it is liberal elite [saying] it, it must be OK. If it’s President Trump that says it, it must be awful.
“Likely won’t matter for the Facebook users that FB banned for telling the truth,” she wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, British politicians also blasted the social media company for the “absolutely appalling” ban, saying conversations about the origin of the virus warranted “genuine debate.”
Facebook will no longer take down posts claiming that Covid-19 was man-made or manufactured, a company spokesperson told POLITICO on Wednesday, a move that acknowledges the renewed debate about the virus’ origins.
A narrative in flux: Facebook’s policy tweak arrives as support surges in Washington for a fuller investigation into the origins of Covid-19 after the Wall Street Journal reported that three scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in late 2019 with symptoms consistent with the virus. The findings have reinvigorated the debate about the so-called Wuhan lab-leak theory, once dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he has ordered the intelligence community to “redouble” its efforts to find out the virus’ origin and report back in 90 days. Biden also revealed that the intelligence community is split between two theories about Covid-19’s origin, and said the review will examine “whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.” Bipartisan support is also building on Capitol Hill for a congressional inquiry.
But the focus of late has been on the notion that the virus may have accidentally escaped from the lab, not that it was man-made or purposely released — theories that could now propagate on Facebook. Genetic studies of the virus have found flaws in the protein it uses to bind to human cells. Those are features that someone trying to engineer a bioweapon likely would have avoided.
Shifting definitions on social media: Facebook announced in February it had expanded the list of misleading health claims that it would remove from its platforms to include those asserting that "COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured." The tech giant has updated its policies against false and misleading coronavirus information, including its running list of debunked claims, over the course of the pandemic in consultation with global health officials.
Prince Harry Calls Out COVID-19 Misinformation & Wants More Vaccine Education & Access I THR News
The Duke of Sussex also called out misinformation campaigns around the vaccine: "This is a system we need to break if we are to overcome COVID-19 and the rise of new variants."
The Duke of Sussex made his plea at the 24th British GQ Men Of The Year Awards while presenting the GQ’s Heroes Of The Year honor to the team of scientists behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which were led by Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert and Dr. Catherine Green. The speech celebrated the scientists‘ rapid work around the life-saving vaccine and addressed the necessity for increased vaccine access.
“Until every community can access the vaccine, and until every community is connected to trustworthy information about the vaccine, then we are all at risk. That’s a common refrain my wife and I have heard in convenings with vaccine experts, heads of industry, community advocates and global leaders,” he said.
Speaking directly to the room, Prince Harry noted that while at least “a third of the global population has received at least one dose of the vaccine” — the equivalent of over five billion shots — that major accomplishment comes alongside a majority disparity in who actually has access to it. During the speech, he shared that “less than two percent of people in the developing world have received a single dose at this point, and many of their healthcare workers are still not even vaccinated.” He then called on communities to address the imbalance “as one” in order to “move forward together.”