YouTube removed the Republican’s three-minute clip in which he argued against the effectiveness of cloth masks and said most sold over the counter “don’t prevent infection.” Paul, who is an eye surgeon, had another video removed by YouTube last week over similar remarks about the effectiveness of masks. He won’t be able to upload new videos on the platform until his suspension is over.
“As a libertarian-leaning Senator, I think private companies have the right to ban me if they want to, so in this case I’ll just channel that frustration into ensuring the public knows YouTube is acting as an arm of government and censoring their users for contradicting the government,” Paul said in a statement.
Meanwhile, YouTube said it removed content from Paul’s channel “for including claims that masks are ineffective in preventing the contraction or transmission of COVID-19, in accordance with our COVID-19 medical misinformation policies”—and that they apply those policies “regardless of speaker or political views.”
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Although Paul disputed the effectiveness of masks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical experts around the world have recommended wearing them to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The statement issued by his office acknowledged that the company has the right to police its own platform.
In Paul’s video removed last week by YouTube, he posted an interview in which he also disputed whether masks work to prevent infection. Additional violations of YouTube’s policies could result in a two-week suspension followed by a permanent ban.
Twitter took similar action this week against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, suspending the Georgia Republican for a week after she tweeted, falsely, that the “vaccines are failing & do not reduce the spread of the virus & neither do masks.” It has been widely established that vaccines and masks work against COVID-19.
Greene was also suspended last month, for 12 hours. Twitter said some of her tweets violated its policy against spreading misinformation that could cause harm during the coronavirus pandemic. Such suspensions mean the person’s account is still visible on Twitter, but they can’t post anything.
Greene appears to have been disciplined under the strike system Twitter launched in March, using a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify content about COVID-19 that is misleading enough to cause harm to people. Two or three strikes earn a 12-hour account lock; four strikes prompt a weeklong suspension, and five or more strikes can get someone permanently removed from Twitter. YouTube uses a similar system.
Greene said in an emailed statement that Twitter “suspended me for speaking the truth, and tweeting what so many people are saying.” Twitter, she added, “only cares about the left’s radical narrative.”