United Kingdom

YouTube BANS Sky News Australia over videos that question the effectiveness of masks and lockdowns

Google has banned Sky News Australia from uploading content to YouTube for one week after the news platform allegedly breached its rules on spreading so-called 'Covid misinformation'.

According to the channel, the videos that provoked the censorship included  'debates around whether masks were effective and whether lockdowns were justified when considering their adverse health outcomes'.  

And it cited its commentators who argue 'masks are not effective in containing outbreaks, particularly when mandated outside in the fresh air' and take issue with 'the frequency and mechanisms of locking down Australians.' It pointed out the  science on both of these points is not settled. 

The move followed a review of posts uploaded by the Rupert Murdoch-owned TV channel, which allegedly posted material that 'could cause real-world harm' to its 1.86 million YouTube subscribers.

YouTube said it had 'clear and established Covid-19 medical misinformation policies based on local and global health authority guidance'. A spokesman told MailOnline today that it 'did not allow content that denies the existence of Covid-19' or which encouraged people 'to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus'.  

Sky News Australia said it had found old videos that did not comply with YouTube's policies and took its 'commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously'. 

However, it denied any of its hosts had ever denied the existence of Covid and its reporters warned the move was an attack on press freedom. The ban could affect Sky News Australia's revenue stream from Google. 

Its posts, including some questioning whether there is a pandemic and the efficacy of vaccines, are widely shared on social media forums around the world that spread virus and vaccine misinformation.

Google has banned Sky News Australia from uploading content to YouTube for one week after the news platform allegedly breached its rules on spreading so-called 'Covid misinformation' (stock0

The last YouTube upload, from three days ago, features a host claiming that lockdowns have failed and criticising state authorities for extending Sydney's current shutdown measures.

Sky News Australia confirmed the temporary ban and a spokesperson 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,' they added.

Comments by veteran Sky presenter Alan Jones have triggered debate in Australia. In one July 12, broadcast with MP Craig Kelly, both men claimed Delta was not as dangerous as the original and vaccines would not help. Sky News website issued an apology.

Sydney radio host Ray Hadley said Mr Jones's performances had 'allowed conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxers... to gain support from a minority who think the virus is nothing more than a dose of flu'. Australia's Daily Telegraph last week ended the column Mr Jones wrote for it.

In an article on the Sky News Australia website, digital editor Jack Houghton said that if conversation about Australia's Covid policies were stifled 'our political leaders will be free to act with immunity, without justification and lacking any sufficient scrutiny from the public'.

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.

'Among the videos deemed unpalatable for societal consumption were debates around whether masks were effective and whether lockdowns were justified when considering their adverse health outcomes.

The move followed a review of posts uploaded by the Rupert Murdoch-owned TV channel, which allegedly posted material that 'could cause real-world harm' to its 1.86 million YouTube subscribers

'The stance taken by some commentators at this network was that masks are not effective in containing outbreaks, particularly when mandated outside in the fresh air. Some also took issue with the frequency and mechanisms of locking down Australians. Other commentators vehemently disagreed, and their views were also published. The science is certainly not clear on either of these two points.' 

He added: 'If YouTube's COVID-19 misinformation policy was around in the early days of the pandemic, people would be banned for criticising China's transparency, saying the virus seems to be airborne or calling for limitations on international travel.

'No one body should have that power - let alone an organisation with such a poor track record. Even more concerning is what this does to the freedom of debate and conversation.

'You have a right to debate Australia's COVID-19 policies. Science, and the 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.

'Your freedom to think will be extinguished.'

YouTube has a 'three strikes' policy on violations, with the first resulting in a one-week suspension, a second strike within 90 days producing a two-week ban, while a third means permanent removal from the platform. Former US president Donald Trump was temporarily banned under the policy.     

A YouTube spokesman told MailOnline: '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.

'We apply our policies equally for everyone regardless of uploader, and in accordance with these policies and our long-standing strikes system, removed videos from and issued a strike to Sky News Australia's channel.'

YouTube's 'COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy'

YouTube implemented a 'COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy' last year to remove content that 'poses a serious risk of egregious harm'

YouTube implemented a 'COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy' last year to remove content that 'poses a serious risk of egregious harm'.

The webpage on 'community guidelines' states that users cannot upload content which includes treatment, prevention, diagnostic or transmission misinformation. 

A YouTube channel is terminated if it accrues three Community Guidelines strikes in 90 days, or is determined to be wholly dedicated to violating our guidelines. When a channel is terminated, all of its videos are removed. 

Treatment Misinformation

YouTube counts this as content which 'discourages someone from seeking medical treatment by encouraging the use of cures or remedies to treat COVID-19'.

Examples include: 

Prevention Misinformation

According to YouTube, users cannot upload content which 'promotes prevention methods that contradict local health authorities or WHO'.

This could include:

Diagnostic Misinformation

YouTube claims this includes content 'that promotes diagnostic methods that contradict local health authorities or WHO'.

Transmission Misinformation

Google, which owns YouTube, states that content which 'promotes transmission information that contradicts local health authorities or WHO' also cannot be uploaded.

It lists as examples:

Examples of banned content

YouTube would ban videos which contain the following information:

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