YouTube appears to have amended its policies so that it is now acceptable to express skepticism about masks on its platform.
Journalist and podcaster Tim Pool posted before-and-after screenshots from YouTube’s misinformation policies to Twitter. The screenshots show that a rule that bans users from claiming that face masks do not play a role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 has been removed from the policies page. The amended rules come nearly a year after the platform suspended several high-profile conservative leaders with massive followings for violating the policy.
“Youtube updated its policies to no longer ban claims that masks do not play a role in preventing spread of COVID,” Pool captioned the photos. “Essentially, you are now allowed to claim masks don’t work.”
Youtube updated its policies to no longer ban claims that masks do not play a role in preventing spread of COVID
Essentially, you are now allowed to claim masks don’t work pic.twitter.com/SI3wF9jov8
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) August 23, 2022
The screenshots are taken from Youtube’s “COVID-19 medical misinformation policy.” Under the headline “Prevention misinformation,” Youtube bans content on its platform that includes “[c]laims that masks do not play a role in preventing the contraction or transmission of COVID-19.” It also bans “[c]laims that wearing a mask is dangerous or causes negative physical health effects.” Pool’s second screenshot shows the same section, with both those rules removed.
A screenshot of the rules page from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, dated April 13, shows the policies still on the site. But they were quietly removed shortly afterward, as they do not appear in a screenshot of the site dated May 31.
A number of YouTubers who had allegedly been banned for violating the rules during the height of the pandemic reacted to the changes.
“I think I got a strike for this,” user @matthewprewett tweeted. “I wasn’t allowed to do certain actions during that time as my account was restricted. This is the problem with a company deciding to be the arbitrator of truth.”
“In March 2021, @YouTube banned a video of me telling @GovRonDeSantis that there was no high quality evidence that force masking children protects anyone from covid,” Stanford School of Medicine Professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya wrote. “Shame on YouTube for censoring to support CDC propaganda. The Science(tm) changed, but the science didn’t.”
“Smh. I got a strike over this,” YouTuber and former police officer Brandon Tatum replied.
YouTube suspended a number of other high-profile leaders in the conservative movement in 2021 and early 2022 allegedly for violating the policy. As tweeted by Bhattacharya, in April 2021, YouTube took down a video of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) discussing the efficacy of masks in schools. Then in August, YouTube removed a video and suspended Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) discussing “a variety of topics, including the science behind masks,” The Daily Wire reported at the time.
YouTube’s move prompted the senator to leave the platform altogether in January. YouTube also permanently suspended conservative talk show host Dan Bongino in January 2022 after he questioned mask policies on the platform, prompting him to migrate his content to the alternative video platform Rumble.