Rand Paul cut off from YouTube for a week following criticism of face masks

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YouTube took action against Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday, removing a video from him and halting his ability to publish content for a week after Paul posted a clip challenging the utility of mask-wearing to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

It is the second time the platform has removed a video from Paul, who has made himself a frequent antagonist to Anthony Fauci when the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has testified before Congress.

A spokesperson for YouTube said Paul’s video violated the company’s policy banning Covid-19-related misinformation, which includes prohibiting “claims that masks do not play a role in preventing the contraction or transmission of Covid-19.”

“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,” the representative said in a statement.

In the video, Paul, whose background is in ophthalmology, criticized the effectiveness of “over the counter” and cloth-based masks.

“They don’t prevent infection,” he said at one point in the roughly three-minute video. “Trying to shape human behavior isn’t the same as following the actual science, which tells us that cloth masks don’t work.”

After the suspension, the Republican senator said the move was a “badge of honor,” and he lashed out at the “left-wing cretins at YouTube” and posted a different link to the video at issue on his Twitter account.

“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,” Paul said in a statement issued by his Senate office.

The action against Paul came on the heels of Twitter handing down a weeklong suspension of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) after she posted that the Covid-19 vaccinations were “failing” and should not be granted full approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

The first-term congresswoman has repeatedly run afoul of major social media platforms' policies on a variety of topics, including the pandemic and the 2020 election.

The incidents are just the latest in an ongoing saga as social media platforms are being pressured by both ends of the political spectrum. White House officials and other Democrats are leaning on tech companies to more aggressively police Covid-related misinformation, while some Republicans are complaining of censorship and anti-conservative bias on the part of large tech companies.

YouTube said the suspension of Paul’s privileges counts as the first step in its three-strike policy toward a permanent removal. If the account does not accrue additional strikes within a 90-day period, the first one will no longer count against him.

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