Videos on Sky News Australia's channel were reportedly flagged by YouTube for involving "debates around whether masks were effective and whether lockdowns were justified." The video-sharing network also flagged videos of commentators claiming that face masks did not work and questioning the frequency and mechanisms of COVID-19 lockdowns. YouTube remarked that the content that it flagged for review "could cause real-world harm" to the Sky News Australia channel's 1.86 million subscribers.
A YouTube spokesman told the Daily Mail: "We have clear and established COVID-19 medical misinformation policies, based on local and global health authority guidance, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. He continued that these policies apply "equally for everyone regardless of uploader." According to the spokesman, content "denying the existence of COVID-19" or "encouraging people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin" as treatments for SARS-CoV-2 were among the topics considered misinformation.
Sky News Australia meanwhile said it had found old videos that did not comply with YouTube policies and deleted them. A spokesperson for the news channel said: "We support broad discussion and debate on a wide range of topics and perspectives, which is vital to any democracy. We take our commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously." However, the channel denied that any of its hosts claimed that COVID-19 did not exist.
Under YouTube's three-strike policy, erring channels receive a week-long suspension. Another violation within 90 days after the first strike results in a longer two-week ban. A third violation merits permanent removal from the platform.
Sky News Australia Digital Editor Jack Houghton confirmed the temporary suspension in an Aug. 1 article. He wrote: "Sky News Australia has been temporarily suspended from posting on the Google-owned platform YouTube for publishing opinion content the tech giant disagrees with." (Related: Now just mentioning "ivermectin" gets you banned on YouTube as Big Tech unleashes wholesale censorship of all covid treatments that might save lives.)
Houghton also noted that YouTube's censorship appeared to center on suppressing conservative personalities and entities. "YouTube's approach to policing debate around COVID-19 policies appears arbitrarily focused against conservative voices. It's hard not to look at some of these tech giant censorship decisions as being biased on one factor – the political persuasion of the person making the comments."
In the past, the video-sharing platform has censored a number of individuals and organizations under the guise of spreading COVID-19 misinformation. American epidemiologist Dr. Knut Wittkowski, formerly of Rockefeller University, was among these individuals suppressed by YouTube. The 65-year-old scientist was a staunch critic of government responses to the pandemic, such as lockdowns and social distancing.
Wittkowski said YouTube removed a video of him talking about the virus. In the now-removed video, Wittkowski said COVID-19 was a respiratory disease and "the only thing that stops the disease is herd immunity." He argued that SARS-CoV-2 should be allowed to create herd immunity, with the pandemic only ending once the virus has sufficiently spread throughout the population.
"I was just explaining what we had," Wittkowski told the Post about why the video was removed. He continued: "[YouTube doesn't] tell you. [It] just [says that the video] violates our community standards. There's no explanation for what those standards are or what standards it violated." Wittkowski nevertheless remarked: "We don't have to fear anything but fear." (Related: YouTube silences prominent epidemiologist for opposing coronavirus lockdowns.)
The censorship Wittkowski experienced showed the dangers of Big Tech having extensive censorship powers. Houghton warned about this in his piece: "No one body should have that power – let alone an organization with such a poor track record. Even more concerning is what this does to the freedom of debate and conversation. Your freedom to think will be extinguished."
The Sky News Australia digital editor pointed out that Australians "have a right to debate" the country's COVID-19 policies. "Science, and the [Australian] government's response to that science, are two very different things. If that conversation is stifled, our political leaders will be free to act with immunity, without justification and lacking any sufficient scrutiny from the public," Houghton wrote.