YouTube temporarily suspends Ron Johnson’s channel over COVID-19 misinformation

Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) YouTube account was suspended for one week starting Friday for uploading content violating the platform’s policy against COVID-19 misinformation.

The video that triggered the suspension was a roundtable discussion in which the lawmaker falsely claimed that coronavirus vaccines are unsafe.

“The updated figures today are 17,619,” he said. “That is 225 times the number of deaths in just a 10-month period versus an annual figure for the flu vaccine. These vaccine injuries are real.”

Johnson was citing numbers from the self-reporting database the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System (VAERS). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that reports in the system, which can easily be gamed by activists hoping to prove a point, “do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.”

“Once again Big Tech is censoring the truth,” Johnson said in a statement. “Why won’t they let the vaccine injured tell their stories and medical experts give a second opinion? Why can’t we discuss the harmful effects of mandates? Apparently, the Biden administration and federal health agencies must not be questioned. How many more lives will be needlessly destroyed?”

Another participant in the roundtable said that coronavirus vaccines do not prevent death, independently violating YouTube policies, which bar content about COVID-19 that poses a serious risk of egregious harm or spreads misinformation that contradicts the guidance of health authorities. 

The video of the roundtable was removed by the platform, a YouTube spokesperson told The Hill, although a shorter version of the discussion was allowed to stay up. 

“We craft our policies to reduce the risk of real-world harm, updating them as official guidance evolves, and we consider the context of a video to make exceptions that balance open discussion of people’s experiences with preventing the spread of harmful misinformation,” the spokesperson said. 

Under the platform’s three-strikes rule, if the account violates the policy again within a 90-day window, a two week suspension will be applied. If a third violation were accrued in the same timeframe, the channel would be permanently removed.

This is the second time Johnson has been temporarily suspended under YouTube’s coronavirus misinformation policy. His channel had uploading privileges revoked in June for posting a video about alternative therapies to treat COVID-19. He also slammed the application of the platform’s clearly stated policy as “censorship” at the time.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) received a strike in August for falsely claiming that masks were not an effective tool to prevent the spread of the disease.

—Updated at 6:17 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus misinformation coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 misinformation COVID-19 vaccine Rand Paul Ron Johnson YouTube
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