YouTube removes a video of the Harvey County Commission after 'medical misinformation' during public comment

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Video of the Aug. 3 Harvey County Commission Meeting was deleted by YouTube, which stated the meeting violated the company's "medical misinformation policy."

Anti-mask and anti-vaccine constituents spoke to the Harvey County Commission at a recent meeting, and it is likely that their testimony during the public comment during the meeting led to the deletion of a video of the meeting by Youtube. 

"It is a fairly unique situation that we have not encountered yet, that a few local governments have encountered," said Anthony Swartzendruber, county administrator. 

According to Youtube.com, the COVID-19 Medical Misinformation policy does not allow content that "spreads medical misinformation that contradicts local health authorities’ or the World Health Organization’s (WHO) medical information about COVID-19."

Youtube has take similar action following a Shawnee Mission board of education meeting in May. Just last week the St. Louis County Council in Missouri saw a meeting video blocked, then unblocked following an appeal. Governmental entities in Nebraska, Florida, Illinois and North Carolina have been affected as well. 

Some see meetings unblocked following an appeal, others do not. 

During the Aug. 2 meeting members of the public spoke to the commission to encourage the commission to not consider a mask mandate. A mask mandate was not on the agenda, and the commission took no action. 

Youtube has a bulleted list of COVID-19 claims, and examples, that violate the company policy. Examples from that list that were part of the public comment section of the Harvey County meeting included claims that wearing a mask causes oxygen levels to drop to dangerous levels and that COVID-19 vaccines kill people.  

The commission meetings have been available on Zoom, with the recordings uploaded to Youtube and in turn to the county website attached to the meeting agenda, since March of 2020. 

This is the first time the county has seen its meeting deleted by Youtube. 

Staff reviewed the meeting, finding that the only medical information given was during staff comment and public comment sessions.  

The county did have an opportunity to appeal based on the meeting being a governmental meeting. That appeal was denied. 

"We do have the full meeting recording available at the clerk's office. Anyone who wants to review it may do so," Swartzendruber said. 

The county has a desire to continue to use Youtube, which is the "backbone" of posting video of the meetings to the county website with the agenda of each meeting. However, there is a limit to the number of violations allowed before accounts are suspended. 

According to Youtube.com, three "strikes" in 90 days leads to the termination of a user's channel. 

"We do need to explore other options, there are limits to how many violations you can have on your account before you are no longer allowed to post videos," Swartzendruber said. "We will need to keep an eye on that."