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YouTube suspends Rand Paul’s account for COVID-19 mask misinformation

Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — YouTube has suspended Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky from uploading content for one week after he posted a video claiming most masks are ineffective in combating COVID-19, making him the second GOP lawmaker this week to be disciplined by a social media platform for misinformation.

Public health experts have said masks, even cloth masks, which Paul took particular issue with, offer protection against COVID-19 transmission, which in turn prevents infection. But Paul claimed in the video, “cloth masks don’t work,” and that most over-the-counter masks “don’t prevent infection,” according to YouTube, which it said violated its policies against spreading COVID-19 medical misinformation.

“This resulted in a first strike on the channel, which means it can’t upload content for a week, per our longstanding three strikes policy,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement. “We apply our policies consistently across the platform, regardless of speaker or political views, and we make exceptions for videos that have additional context such as countervailing views from local health authorities.”

According to YouTube, it will remove content that includes claims that masks don’t work to prevent contracting or spreading COVID-19 in order to protect users from content that poses real-world harm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest masking recommendation is that everyone in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission — vaccinated or not — wear a mask in public, indoor settings.

After the media giant sanctioned Paul on Monday, the Kentucky senator fired back against the decision in a tweet on Tuesday, calling the suspension a “badge of honor.”

He also blasted the ban in a press release, but conceded he believes that private companies should have “the right to ban me if they want to.”

“I think this kind of censorship is very dangerous, incredibly anti-free speech, and truly anti-progress of science, which involves skepticism and argumentation to arrive at the truth,” the release began.

“As a libertarian leaning Senator, I think private companies have the right to ban me if they want to, so in this case I’ll just channel that frustration into ensuring the public knows YouTube is acting as an arm of government and censoring their users for contradicting the government,” he continued, without evidence.

Paul, who holds a medical degree, has feuded with public health experts from the start of the pandemic including the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

He’s also the second Republican lawmaker this week to get suspended from a major social media platform after spreading COVID-19 misinformation.

Twitter took action against Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s account on Tuesday for COVID-19 misinformation via a one-week suspension, downgrading her account into “read only” mode.

While Greene tweeted on Monday the vaccines were “failing,” data shows that nearly all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks have been among the unvaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health experts continue to warn that vaccinations are the most effective ways to curb the spread of the coronavirus and the highly contagious delta variant.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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