YouTube on Wednesday suspended Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky for breaking the company's rules against spreading misinformation about COVID-19. As part of the suspension, Paul won't be able to publish videos to his channel for one week.
In the offending video, the Republican senator denounces the effectiveness of wearing masks to ward off the coronavirus. The claims contradict guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical experts around the world, who've recommended masks to curb transmission of the virus.
YouTube, owned by Google, confirmed the suspension. "We removed content from Senator Paul's channel for including claims that masks are ineffective in preventing the contraction or transmission of COVID-19," a spokeswoman said. "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 suspension comes as COVID-19 cases have surged because of the highly contagious delta variant. Some counties, including many in Google's home state of California, have reinstated indoor mask mandates.
Medical experts have said that cloth masks are effective. In his three-minute clip, Paul falsely claims that masks "don't prevent infection" and alleges that "actual science" demonstrates that. But John Volckens, a public health engineer at Colorado State University who organized a workshop for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine on ways to prevent the airborne spread of COVID, told The New York Times that "masks are a critical part of that approach. That is definitely the consensus among scientists."
The infraction gave Paul his first strike under YouTube's three-strikes policy. According to the company's guidelines, a first strike typically comes with a one-week suspension that prohibits the posting of new content. A second strike within a 90-day window comes with a two-week suspension. A third strike results in a permanent ban.
In a tweet, Paul called the suspension a "badge of honor," calling the people at YouTube "leftwing cretins." Paul's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.