Ron Johnson: YouTube suspends Republican senator for seven days over Covid misinformation

Senator accuses platform of ‘arrogant Covid censorship’ after he amplified unproven medical claims

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 11 June 2021 22:38
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YouTube has removed a video and suspended Republican US Senator Ron Johnson from posting for seven days after violating the platform’s Covid-19 misinformation policies.

The senator promoted use of the drugs hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to treat Covid-19, despite the platform’s policy that prohibits “content that promotes prevention methods that contradict local health authorities” or the World Health Organization.

“YouTube’s arrogant Covid censorship continues,” he said on Friday. “How many lives will be lost as a result? How many lives could have been saved with a free exchange of medical ideas? This suppression of speech should concern every American.”

His suspension marks the latest episode in his ongoing feud with social media platforms that the senator and other right-wing figures have alleged are waging a censorship campaign against them. In February, he wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal ( “YouTube Cancels the US Senate”), raging against YouTube’s removal of two videos from a US Senate committee discussing Covid-19 that are publicly available on C-SPAN and elsewhere. The video featured a doctor telling the Homeland Security Committee, which the senator chaired, that ivermectin is a “solution” to the public health crisis.

The senator has also been accused of laundering far-right conspiracy theories, propaganda and other disinformation during the pandemic, surrounding the events of the insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January, and the 2020 presidential election.

YouTube explains that the platform may allow content listed among its misinformation policies “if that content includes context that gives equal or greater weight to countervailing views from local health authorities or to medical or scientific consensus.”

“We may also make exceptions if the purpose of the content is to condemn or dispute misinformation that violates our policies,” YouTube explains. “This context must appear in the images or audio of the video itself. Providing it in the title or description is insufficient.”

The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved ivermectin for treating or preventing Covid-19. The drug is not an anti-viral medicine and has been approved for parasites and treating lice and some skin conditions.

Hydroxychloroquine has not been been approved for use against Covid-19, according to several public health agencies and the FDA. Donald Trump said he was taking the drug – which has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, malaria and lupus – as part of a daily regimen with zinc for two weeks last year.

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