YouTube Suspends Senator Ron Johnson for a Week Over COVID Misinformation

Republican Senator Ron Johnson's YouTube channel was suspended after a video was posted of the lawmaker claiming coronavirus vaccines are unsafe.

The Wisconsin senator will only face a one-week suspension beginning on Friday after the video, which violated YouTube's policy on COVID-19 misinformation, was uploaded.

"The updated figures today are 17,619," Johnson said in the video during a roundtable discussion. "That is 225 times the number of deaths in just a 10-month period versus an annual figure for the flu vaccine. These vaccine injuries are real."

The Republican was referring to numbers from the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System (VAERS), which is a national self-reporting database for people to report vaccine reactions.

Yet the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that changes in the numbers "do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem" because anyone can submit them and VAERS welcomes all reports.

"Once again, Big Tech is censoring the truth," Johnson said in a statement. "Why won't they let the vaccine injured tell their stories and medical experts give a second opinion? Why can't we discuss the harmful effects of mandates? Apparently, the Biden administration and federal health agencies must not be questioned. How many more lives will be needlessly destroyed?"

A second individual in the video also violated YouTube's policies by stating that the COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent death. The platform prohibits content about the virus that spreads misinformation contradictory to the guidance of health authorities or that pose a serious risk of egregious harm.

Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Republican Senator Ron Johnson's YouTube channel was suspended after a video of the lawmaker claiming coronavirus vaccines are unsafe was posted. Pictured: Johnson questions Peter Neffenger, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, during Neffenger's testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in 2016, in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty Images

A spokesperson for YouTube told The Hill that a video of the roundtable was removed from its platform but it allowed a shorter version to stay online.

"We craft our policies to reduce the risk of real-world harm, updating them as official guidance evolves, and we consider the context of a video to make exceptions that balance open discussion of people's experiences with preventing the spread of harmful misinformation," the spokesperson said in a statement.

If Johnson's account violates YouTube's policy again within 90 days, it will be suspended for two weeks. A third violation also in that time will result in the channel being permanently suspended under the company's three-strike policy.

The senator's channel was also temporarily suspended in June for violating YouTube's misinformation policy. Then, his channel lost uploading privileges after a video of alternative therapies to treat the virus was posted. Johnson called the platform's policy application "censorship" at the time.

Fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul, who represents Kentucky, also had his account suspended in August for falsely claiming masks do not effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Newsweek reached out to Johnson for comment.