There are many sources of reliable information on COVID-19, including physicians, local health agencies, and even the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it’s possible that the public comment session hosted by your local government isn’t the best venue for it. Throughout a meeting of St. Louis County Councils earlier in this month, an opponent of potential mask rules made so many false statements about vaccines, masks, and COVID-19 that YouTube deleted the video for violating the policies against making false statements about the virus, according to the St. Louis County Council.
Inaccurate Information On Public Forums Local Boards Creates A Stir
As the newest vector of COVID-19 disinformation emerges, videos of local government meetings are spreading to millions of people, presenting new difficulties for internet companies attempting to strike a balance between the potential damage and the need for government transparency.
The most recent video to go viral shows a local physician who, while speaking to the Mount Vernon Community School Corporation in Fortville, Indiana, on Aug. 6, made several false statements regarding COVID-19 that have since gone viral.
According to Dr. Dan Stock’s 6-minute comments to the board of directors, masks are ineffective, vaccinations are ineffective at preventing illness, and state and federal health authorities do not adhere to scientific principles.
The video has garnered hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, leading the Indiana State Department of Health to respond to a statement. The stock did not reply to numerous requests for comment through email or social media.
A well-known online medical show that has acquired broad appeal is presented by Damania, who is the host of ZDoggMD. In the two weeks after it was released, his video rebutting Stock’s comments has received more than 400,000 views. Despite legitimate worries about the effectiveness of mask restrictions for children, he said that Stock went too far in his overall criticism of masks and vaccines, which he felt was excessive.
Many comparable recordings of local government meetings from North Carolina to Missouri to Kansas to Washington state were taken down from YouTube by the site’s administrators. Officials in Bellingham, Washington, reacted by temporarily halting public comment sessions until further notice. They were made during the part of the meeting dedicated to public comment, which is when the incorrect statements in those films were made.
Local authorities acknowledge that they have little control over what is said at these forums, arguing that this is part of the appeal. As reported by The Associated Press, YouTube has removed the footage from a May school board meeting in the 27,000-student Shawnee Mission district, in which parents and a state legislator asked for the district to withdraw the mask requirement, citing “medical misinformation.”
The district, where a mask requirement continues to be in place, reacted by suspending live streaming of the public comment session during the public comment period. District spokesperson David Smith admitted that it has been difficult to strike a balance between making board meetings accessible while also avoiding the spread of false information. After receiving feedback from local authorities, YouTube overturned its decision and restored the videos to their original locations.
Google-owned YouTube announced a modification to its COVID disinformation policy earlier this month, allowing for exceptions for local government meetings. However, the firm may still delete material that incorporates comments from public forums to mislead users.
The flood of bogus statements about the virus has put other platforms on the defensive as well. Twitter and Facebook each have their own rules regarding COVID-19 misinformation, and they both claim that, like YouTube, they identify false material and remove the worst of it from their platforms.