Should you be banned from watching your ward council meeting because you may be hearing misinformation about COVID-19?
That was YouTube’s decision for you when it decided to make videos of government meetings, such as public, public.
YouTube eventually changed its mind, restored the videos and changed its guidelines, and thank god for that. Yes, lives are in danger today. But such is the life of our republic. We have to protect both. And the disappearance of government meetings is not a way to protect the health of our democracy.
As newspaper people like to remind, the way to fight bad speech is with more and better speech. The fact is that they even have a name for this principle: the “counter-speech doctrine”.
As David L. Hudson Jr. writes for the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University, the doctrine is that “The correct response to negative speech is to counter it with positive expression. It derives from the theory that the audience or recipients of the expression can weigh the values of competing ideas for themselves and hopefully take the better approach. “
This doctrine is at the heart of the First Amendment, which is at the heart of the American experience. In short, let’s treat each other like adults who can make up their own mind.
Of course, some of the anti-mask antics at school board and local government meetings put our adulthood to the test. The Park Hill Board of Education on Monday deemed it necessary to vacate its recalcitrant auditorium before approving its mask mandate. And at a meeting of the Kansas City Council to renew the city’s masking mandate Wednesday night, authorities didn’t even try to enforce the ordinance on dozen who opposed it. Good grief.
Even so, it is more than ominous to record videos of government meetings. I understand the need to have good information about the COVID-19 delta variant and to protect yourself. But those in line to express skepticism and, yes, make wild and inaccurate claims are far inferior to the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Responsible Media, local health leaders, elected leaders, and others – beginning with your own doctor.
Social media companies suppress freedom of expression
So we should all be relieved that YouTube has reversed its decision to remove such meeting videos – and with it its previous practice of videos from the Shawnee Mission School District, St. Louis County Council, the Mount Vernon Community School Corporation in Fortville , Indiana, North Carolina, and Washington.
In the case of Shawnee Mission, Chief Communications Officer David Smith said the district had the video of its meeting on Jan.
YouTube’s U-turn is a seemingly rare victory for free expression at a time when social media platforms struggle to deliver content – and often err on the side of repression.
“While we have clear guidelines to remove harmful COVID-19 misinformation,” a YouTube spokesperson wrote when announcing his policy change, “we also recognize the importance of organizations like school districts and city councils that use YouTube to keep records of open airs to share public forums, even if comments in these forums may violate our guidelines. “
Shawnee Mission hopes to prevent future conflicts between free speech and costly disinformation: It has decided to postpone public comments to new special sessions at 5:30 p.m. on board meeting days starting Monday, just before regular board meetings. The public comment section is not broadcast, which means that no wild claims beyond those in the room can be broadcast. But at least the public will be able to present their views to the board, which is primarily the point of public comment.
Citizens still have the right to speak before the board of directors, but there is no equivalent right to be in front of the camera. Without such a right, this republic has survived several centuries quite well.