FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL: Nearly three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and just after President Joe Biden effectively claimed the pandemic is over by trying to reverse Title 42, YouTube removed footage of a panel involving doctors and a Heritage Foundation expert discussing COVID-19 and restrictions imposed on religious liberty in the name of public health.

One speaker on the panel told The Daily Signal that this Big Tech censorship proved his point about suppression of freedoms during the pandemic, and he condemned YouTube’s move as “Kafkaesque.”

The panel, “Setting the Record Straight,” took place at the Restoring Our Faith Summit last October in Vermont.

Speakers included Dr. Robin Armstrong, owner of an organization of hospital and nursing home physicians; Dr. Janci Chunn Lindsay, a toxicology expert; Aaron Kheriaty, a psychologist and scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center; and Roger Severino, former director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services and currently vice president for domestic policy at The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news outlet.)

“Hi Restoring Our Faith Summit, Our team has reviewed your content, and, unfortunately, we think it violates our medical misinformation policy,” YouTube wrote Dec. 13 to the summit, using boldface for the final three words.

YouTube noted that it had removed content on the panel discussion from the social media site’s platform.

Email screenshot from YouTube

YouTube provided a vague explanation for removing the content, noting that “YouTube doesn’t allow claims about COVID-19 vaccinations that contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization.”

The email also warned that if Restoring Our Faith attempted to upload another video that violates the policy, its channel “will get a strike and you won’t be able to do things like upload, post, or live stream for 1 week.”

A representative of the summit personally reached out to a YouTube staffer, seeking clarification. The staffer did not explain which specific claims in the video from the summit allegedly violated YouTube policy or which speaker made them.

Email screenshot from YouTube

“The video you appealed was reviewed and determined to be in violation of our Community Guidelines pertaining to COVID-19 medical misinformation,” the YouTube staffer wrote. “YouTube does not allow content that spreads medical misinformation that contradicts local health authorities’ or the World Health Organization (WHO) medical information about COVID-19.”

Again, the YouTube staffer did not clarify which speaker’s comments about vaccines reportedly violated its policy.

During the panel, Lindsay referred to the COVID-19 vaccines as “gene therapies.” (Although many contest this claim because the vaccines use mRNA, which doesn’t interact with a person’s DNA, mRNA still uses the ATCG genes in DNA; a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official told The Daily Signal that the vaccines were developed in a gene therapy laboratory.)

She also claimed that American women have experienced an increase in miscarriages and stillbirths due to the vaccines.

Severino focused on issues involving religious freedom, lamenting that churches replaced holy water with hand sanitizer and that even outdoor services were banned temporarily. He briefly mentioned that the government vaccination mandates applied even when people already had contracted COVID-19 and that mandates didn’t relax “if the vaccine efficacy has plummeted.”

Google, which owns YouTube, did not respond to The Daily Signal‘s multiple requests for comment on the banned video.

The Restoring Our Faith Summit featured a broad array of health and faith experts. Speakers included Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University; former Harvard Medical School professor Martin Kulldorff; commentator and talk show host Dennis Prager; the Catholic University of America’s Marriage and Religion Institute Director Pat Fagan; and Jay Richards, director of Heritage’s Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family, among others.

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YouTube didn’t flag videos featuring Bhattacharya and Kulldorff, who were leaders of the anti-lockdown Great Barrington Declaration, launched Oct. 4, 2020, during the height of the pandemic. The video platform removed only the panel discussion featuring Severino, Lindsay, Armstrong, and Kheriaty.

“We are shocked and disappointed that YouTube refused to post our video that featured some of the country’s leading scientists and physicians and high-level government officials,” a spokesperson for Restoring Our Faith Vermont told The Daily Signal.

Restoring Our Faith Vermont, an organization dedicated to encouraging Americans to return to moral and biblical principles, launched following the success of the October summit.

“Three years after the COVID outbreak social media companies still refuse to allow debate and discussion that may question the medical community and people like Anthony Fauci whose mistakes in handling the pandemic are clearly evident,” the spokesperson added. “Freedom of speech has been lost to powerful forces just as freedom of religion and the ability of Americans to practice their faith was set aside during the pandemic. Our organization will fight to protect these freedoms despite this setback.”

“YouTube’s ban of my talk once again demonstrates the censorious, arbitrary, and authoritarian tendencies of Big Tech,” Heritage’s Severino told The Daily Signal. “Ironically, my talk was on the censorious, arbitrary, and authoritarian tendencies of our government during the pandemic, especially with respect to violations of religious freedom.”

“I wish I knew exactly what triggered YouTube’s ire, but they remain imperiously vague,” he added. “It is Kafkaesque to be placed in YouTube jail and not be told what the alleged crime was or even who committed it.”

Roger Severino in a gray suit with a blue striped tie speaks at The Heritage Foundation.
Roger Severino speaks at The Heritage Foundation on April 14, 2022. (Photo: The Heritage Foundation)

“Was it me, a fellow panelist, or both?” Severino asked. “If it wasn’t me, why was my talk censored too? YouTube censored a public debate on issues of public concern in the digital public square. It should no longer be able to get away with it, and Congress must take this power away.”

David Gortler, a pharmacologist and scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who previously served on the Food and Drug Administration’s senior executive leadership team, told The Daily Signal that the FDA abuses its own Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, also called VAERS.

The FDA welcomes input through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System from Americans who received vaccines, Gortler said.

When some Americans report negative results from the vaccine, Gortler said, “the FDA says, ‘technically, we haven’t verified every single one of these.’” Yet, he added, “that’s a lie because the FDA has made decisions based on the database.”

“They’re speaking out of both sides of their mouth,” Gortler said. “When they say a drug is safe, they’ll say there’s nothing in the VAERS database suggesting it isn’t. But when you record an adverse reaction, they dismiss it as not causal.”

“This vaccine is so safe and effective, they’re still mostly working remotely to this day,” the pharmacologist quipped. “It’s like trying to make sense out of a fever dream.”

Gortler questioned whether YouTube employs staff with a medical background who would be competent to make decisions about “medical misinformation.”

“Do they have pharmacologists, FDA experts, geneticists on staff guiding their censorship decisions?” he asked. “What about drug safety epidemiologists or experts in Christian ministry who are trained biologists and/or public health experts?”

He asked, are government agencies “100% infallible”?

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“These questions need answers from legitimate experts quoting objective and current findings in an open and transparent format such as [Florida Gov.] Ron Desantis’s grand jury investigation, not generic mainstream news ‘fact checkers,’ journalists parroting everything that still working-from-home HHS officials say,” Gortler said in an email using italics for emphasis. 

“Critical scientific thinking shows us that the federal government’s existing narrative is crumbling before our eyes,” he said. “Despite that, [first lady] Jill Biden is still encouraging Americans to get vaccinated in her New Year’s Day ‘tweet.'”

Richards, the other Heritage scholar who spoke at the event, also condemned YouTube’s move.

“It’s outrageous that YouTube has blocked video of this conference for ‘medical misinformation.’ I participated in the conference and attended the entire event,” Richards told The Daily Signal.

“The medical speakers are all highly credentialed, highly competent, and in a number of cases have been proven right in their predictions related to the COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccine policies,” Richards said. “At this late date, it’s utterly bizarre that YouTube would still be putting its finger on the scale in favor of one side of a scientific debate on which it has no competence.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to fix a typo and to accurately reflect Gortler’s remarks.

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