YouTube has banned LifeSiteNews, an anti-abortion outlet that bills itself as the “#1 pro-life news website,” for repeatedly sharing videos that spread misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines against it.
“In accordance with our longstanding strikes system, we terminated the channel LifeSiteNews Media for repeatedly violating our COVID-19 misinformation policy, which prohibits content that promotes prevention methods that contradict local health authorities or WHO,” Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokesperson, told VICE News in an email.
“Any channel that violates our COVID-19 misinformation policy will receive a strike, which temporarily restricts uploading or live-streaming. Channels that receive three strikes in the same 90-day period will be permanently removed from YouTube.”
Launched in 1997, LifeSiteNews calls itself a “non-profit Internet service dedicated to issues of culture, life, and family.” It “emphasizes the social worth of traditional Judeo-Christian principles,” and claims that “abortion, euthanasia, cloning, homosexuality and all other moral, life and family issues are all interconnected in an international conflict,” according to its website.
It’s not clear what constituted LifeSiteNews’ final strike on Wednesday, since its channel—and whatever video triggered the banning—is now gone. But over the past few months, LifeSiteNews has also breathlessly chronicled its battles with YouTube over its coronavirus content.
“This isn’t a temporary ban; every single one of our videos is completely gone,” reads a Wednesday post on the website, attributed to “LifeSiteNews staff.”
“Thankfully, we have backups of all our videos, but this means hundreds of thousands of people have lost access to our truth-telling content.”
In November, YouTube took down a LifeSiteNews video featuring a doctor who called the coronavirus pandemic “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public,” according to LifeSiteNews. The doctor also called both masks and social distancing “useless” when it came to stopping the spread of the deadly virus.
The Centers for Disease Control disagrees. New research from the agency, released Wednesday, found that when people wear two snug masks, they can reduce the coronavirus’ transmission by about 95 percent compared to being unmasked.
Then, in late January, LifeSiteNews earned a second strike from YouTube for a video about the alleged links between abortion and the coronavirus vaccines. This is a popular topic among anti-abortion advocates, who are increasingly divided over whether they should take take COVID-19 vaccines that may have been developed with the use of fetal cells.
Drug developers often use fetal cells that were collected from decades-old abortions and have since been replicated over and over again in labs. Fetal cells have led to the production of several major modern vaccines, including those against diseases like the chickenpox and Hepatitis A.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines—the only two that have been approved by the FDA so far—were not created with these cells, according to the Mayo Clinic. The anti-abortion group the Charlotte Lozier Institute, however, have said that these cells were used in tests of the vaccines.
In the pulled LifeSiteNews video, a copy of which can still be viewed online, Vaccination: A Catholic Perspective author Pamela Acker repeatedly cast doubt on the safety of vaccines, including those used to combat COVID-19.
“You can’t just say, ‘Vaccines save lives, therefore this vaccine is a great idea.’ You have to look at vaccines on a case-by-case basis, and the ones that are using aborted fetal cells, generally speaking, are not. They’re not really life-saving vaccines,” Acker said. (She clarified that there are no fetal cells within the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which is correct.)
Of COVID-19, she added, “This disease isn’t really killing people right and left that weren’t probably gonna die within the year anyway.”
YouTube’s medical misinformation policy bans people from posting information that contradicts official medical guidance on the treatment, prevention, diagnosis, and transmission of COVID-19. That includes “claims that an approved COVID-19 vaccine will contain substances that are not on the vaccine ingredient list, such as fetal tissue.”
In tax documents from 2018, LifeSiteNews claimed that its thousands of articles have reached more than 20 million readers. In its articles about YouTube, the website has claimed somewhere in the range of 200,000 to 3000,000 subscribers on the platform.
“In response to this small sliver of accountability, we fully expect LifeSiteNews to falsely cry censorship and then attack YouTube itself. This is a key facet of the anti-choice playbook that we have seen time and time again,” NARAL Pro-Choice America Research Director Dina Montemarano told VICE News in an email.
“We must call this out in the strongest terms possible, and continue to hold both extremists and online platforms accountable for allowing anti-choice and white supremacist disinformation and extremism to flourish.”
The LifeSiteNews post about the YouTube banning does indeed carry a banner that declares, “Big Tech is censoring us.”
Despite the banning, LifeSiteNews is still advertising an upcoming virtual conference called “Unmasking COVID-19.” The conference promises to teach attendees about “how aborted fetal cells are used in COVID and other vaccines.”