Faulty Censor Triggers Alarm

July 26, 2021

YouTube is a bully. Bullies like to pick on people smaller and weaker than themselves. For YouTube and its parent company, Google, that includes pretty much everyone. But bullies also back down when their targets fight back. And FRC will always fight back.

YouTube abruptly removed my "Washington Watch" interview with Mary Holland, President and General Counsel of Children's Health Defense, claiming it violated their Community Guidelines because it contained "medical misinformation." They also slapped an official warning onto our YouTube account. That was last Monday, July 19, within an hour of our posting the video. Earlier this month, the White House had pressured social media giants to suppress more "misinformation" about vaccines. But apparently, YouTube decided to censor legal information as well. Holland is a lawyer, and our topic was a lawsuit against D.C. after a city mandate sought to conceal from parents medical records concerning their children.

That same day, using YouTube's appeal mechanism, FRC filed an appeal. "This interview discussed parental rights and federal and constitutional law. The interview does not violate any of the COVID-19 medical misinformation policies listed in YouTube's Community Guidelines. This is a news interview. There is no misinformation." YouTube denied the appeal on Tuesday morning, July 20, at 6:48 a.m. They probably thought the matter was settled: one more puny conservative pummeled into silence.

At Family Research Council, we don't believe in silence. So, we published the interview on Rumble -- a video-sharing platform that is friendlier towards free speech. (Interestingly, the video on Rumble now has over 34,000 views that YouTube will never receive). On July 20, we featured the issue in FRC Action's Washington Update. On July 21, we published the full transcript of the censored video. On July 22, we announced YouTube's censorship in a press release. Then, on July 23, at 4:18 a.m., YouTube notified us that they revisited our appeal, restored the video, and cleared the warning from our account. In less than three days, YouTube performed a complete about-face. And yet, the only thing that changed is that we decided to speak out publicly.

How can we explain YouTube's bizarre behavior? There are only four possible options. First, YouTube could sincerely believe, under some inscrutable definition, that the video really contained "medical misinformation." In that case, their decision to restore the video didn't make sense. Second, YouTube could have believed the video contained no "medical misinformation," and censored it arbitrarily and maliciously. In that case, our recent warnings about Big Tech seem especially prescient, and there are likely many conservatives who are quietly being censored and do not have adequate recourses to get the heavy hand of Big Tech giants like YouTube to budge.

Third, the initial censorship could have resulted from an overzealous algorithm programmed to stifle free speech without a human's review. In that case, YouTube would seem to determine appeals based on a pre-set agenda. Additionally, it would mean YouTube's rogue algorithm deserves additional human oversight. Fourth, YouTube's appeal review staff could be divided, with some favoring censorship and some favoring free speech. In that case, YouTube needs to do some serious housecleaning to rebuild its reputation.

While we cannot determine YouTube's exact motive behind removing our video, we do know that censorship is becoming the rule, not the exception.

When the Biden White House promoted Big Tech censorship, their senior intelligence officials admitted that increasing evidence supports the lab leak theory about COVID's origin -- which had previously been suppressed as misinformation. In real time, the Biden administration is calling on companies to increase its suppression of free speech while admitting previous suppression of speech was mistaken. This strategy is profoundly unreasonable, something which senior federal officials and top YouTube executives should realize. But you can't reason with a bully.