YouTube has terminated the account of UK TalkRadio, leaving fans, presenters, and free-speech advocates speculating it was due to the station’s coverage of views critical of lockdown measures and other COVID-19 analysis.
The YouTube channel had around 250,000 subscribers.
Links to previous videos now bring up the following, “This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated.”
Google, which owns the video platform, has not responded to a request for comment.
The termination came shortly after the government announced a third national lockdown and the closure of schools.
TalkRadio has included interviews with various well-known critics of lockdown measures, including with Oxford epidemiologist Dr. Sunetra Gupta, one of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration.
Some TalkRadio presenters have been openly skeptical of the value of lockdown measures, and have questioned government virus-related policy and the rationale and interpretation of the data underpinning it.
The station, which is licensed by the national broadcast regulator, has featured more questioning of the handling of the pandemic than many other broadcasters.
Ban on Content
YouTube guidelines state, “YouTube doesn’t allow content that spreads medical misinformation that contradicts local health authorities’ or the World Health Organization’s (WHO) medical information about COVID-19.”
This is limited to contradicting guidance on treatment, prevention, diagnosis, and transmission.
“No one on TalkRadio has said ANY of those things,” said presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer on Twitter in response to a piece by Guido Fawkes. “We simply challenge the evidence that lockdowns are a proportionate response to the COVID virus. It’s called free speech.”
A spokesperson for TalkRadio said, “We urgently await a detailed response from Google/YouTube about the nature of the breach that has led to our channel being removed from its platform.”
In a statement, the station noted that they are licensed and regulated by Ofcom, the national broadcast regulator, and have in place “robust editorial controls.”
Free speech organisation Big Brother Watch described the removal of the entire channel as a “bold censorship move.”
“We’re meeting Google to ask why they buried the Great Barrington Declaration,” they wrote on Twitter. “We’ll be asking about this appalling censorship too.”
Hartley-Brewer asked Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove about whether the government should take action with regard to censorship by so-called Big Tech.
“I don’t believe in censorship,” said Gove. “We have a free and fair press and we have commentators and interviewers of distinction who do criticise the government’s position: from Lord Sumption, a former supreme court judge, to Peter Hitchens, a distinguished Mail on Sunday columnist.”
“I respectfully disagree with them, but I think it’s important that their voices are heard and that debate takes place.”
“I think it’s absolutely right that people should ask questions,” he added.
However, Radomir Tylecote of think tank Civitas, says that legislation currently in the pipeline suggests the government approves of YouTube acting as a gatekeeper.
Tylecote highlighted a passage from the government’s Online Harms plans, which says, “YouTube continues to remove content which denies the existence of COVID-19 or contradicts the World Health Organisation or NHS medical information.”
Writing on Twitter, he said, “Here is the YouTube policy the government links to approvingly in its own legislative plans: ‘YouTube doesn’t allow content that spreads medical misinformation that contradicts local health authorities’ … medical information about COVID-19.'”