YouTube has removed a video of a public health roundtable discussion with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that included comments advising against mask-wearing in schools in opposition to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines.
The move has prompted criticism from a free-market think tank and the governor’s office, though YouTube reportedly identified the content as "medical misinformation."
The March 18 discussion, hosted by DeSantis, included Dr. Sumetra Gupta of Oxford University, Dr. Scott Atlas and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, and Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard Medical School.
The issue was likely comments the panelists made in response to a question from DeSantis about children wearing masks in schools. Kulldorff said that they should not wear masks, and Bhattacharya called it "developmentally inappropriate" for children.
"They don’t need it for their own protection, and they don’t need it for protecting other people, either," Kulldorff said.
The CDC includes "universal and correct use of masks" as one of its key points for schools to safely provide in-person instruction amid the ongoing pandemic.
"All schools should implement and layer prevention strategies and should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing," the CDC’s guidance for K-12 schools states, noting that masks may be needed even once teachers and staff are vaccinated since COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been approved for children under 16.
The American Institute for Economic Research was first to point out that a video of the discussion, which had been posted by a Florida TV station, had been "removed for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines."
In a blog post, the think tank’s editorial director, Jeffrey A. Tucker, wrote that YouTube had "run afoul of the basic needs of public health messaging, science, and sound policy decision-making."
In a statement to FOX Business, a spokesperson for DeSantis also criticized the move as a "blatant example of Big Tech attempting to silence those who disagree with their woke corporate agenda."
"Good public health policy should include a variety of scientific and technical expertise, and YouTube’s decision to remove this video suppresses productive dialogue of these complex issues," they said.
A YouTube spokesperson told "Fox & Friends" that it removed the video "because it includes content that contradicts the consensus of local and global health authorities regarding the efficacy of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19."
"YouTube has clear policies around COVID-19 medical misinformation to support the health and safety of our users," the spokesperson said,
The policy isn’t new. YouTube has been removing videos it deems to contain coronavirus-related misinformation since last spring, using CDC and other health agency guidelines as the basis for what COVID-19 information is allowed on its platform.
"As we’ve discovered throughout the pandemic, effective communication is a crucial park of improving public health," YouTube wrote in a blog post last month promoting COVID-19 vaccines.
This is not the only coronavirus-related issue where DeSantis has disagreed with CDC experts. On Thursday, he announced that Florida was suing the federal health agency over its conditional sailing order for cruise ships.
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More than 2.1 million people in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 33,000 residents have died from it since the pandemic began, according to the Florida Department of Health. Johns Hopkins University data show that the number of new cases in the state is down to fewer than 7,000 per day after peaking at more than 17,000 on Jan. 5.
More than 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered in Florida as of Saturday morning, according to CDC data.
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