YouTube Censors Video of School Board Meeting on Mask Mandates

Site has removed tens of thousands of videos questioning COVID policies

(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
July 13, 2021

Update 8:45 pm: YouTube reinstated a video posted by an Illinois public school that was censored for violating content guidelines on "COVID misinformation." During the board meeting, parents questioned the need for mask mandates at Lake Forest High School.

A YouTube spokesman said late Tuesday that the decision to reinstate the video less than 12 hours after it was taken down came after "further review."

"Upon further review, we’re reinstating the Lake Forest School District’s video," the spokesman said. "We have policies in place to allow content that might otherwise violate our policies as long as it includes educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic content." The company directed the Free Beacon to a policy document created before the COVID pandemic began to explain the decision.

The video of the Monday evening board meeting was removed by YouTube by Tuesday morning for violating the site's "community guidelines." Those who watched the video told the Washington Free Beacon it included requests from parents to make masks optional. Lake Forest chief communications officer Melissa Oakley said the school filed an appeal to YouTube but has not heard back.

YouTube's guidelines prohibit videos that question the World Health Organization's COVID policies, including a recommendation that children twelve and older wear masks indoors. The platform has removed more than 30,000 videos containing "COVID misinformation" since the beginning of the pandemic, including a discussion hosted by Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.) in which panelists suggested masks weren't necessary for children. Studies have shown that in-school COVID transmission is incredibly rare.

CDC guidelines recommend children who are not fully vaccinated wear masks indoors, but school districts have freedom to set their own policies. CDC data indicate 49,047 deaths of people under the age of 18 last year, of which only 331 were from COVID-19.

Oakley said Lake Forest High records its meeting by livestreaming directly to YouTube, which means it cannot now access the video. She said YouTube had also pulled a previous board meeting.

One apparent attendee at Monday's meeting posted on Twitter, "The meeting was AWESOME! Concerned and courageous parents spoke up, the BOE heard our message.... Last night we saw transparency, witnessed leadership and FELT UNITY."