Washington Evening Journal
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FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Media Center had its YouTube account suspended Wednesday for violating the company's policy about spreading 'medical misinformation' about COVID-19.
What did the media center do spread misinformation, according to YouTube?
By livestreaming the Fairfield City Council meeting Monday night. The meeting included a public hearing on the mask policy at the Roosevelt Recreation Center in Fairfield. Members of the public spoke during the meeting, some for and some against.
The Fairfield Media Center operates the city's local access channel. It is a city department, and the director is a city employee.
On Wednesday morning, Media Center Director Jason Strong attempted to log into the channel's YouTube account and discovered he could not. He received a notice explaining that the account had been suspended for seven days due to this policy violation.
It's not clear what was said during the meeting that constituted 'medical misinformation' because YouTube did not specify that in its announcement of the account's suspension. Strong immediately appealed the company's decision but learned Wednesday night his appeal had been denied.
It's not clear whether the video was removed by an employee of YouTube or whether it was flagged by artificial intelligence that was searching for keywords. Earlier this month, the news service Axios reported YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez saying the company had taken down more than 30,000 videos that made misleading or false claims about COVID-19 vaccines during the prior six months.
Strong said Thursday afternoon that he uploaded the council meeting video to Fairfield Media Center's at fairfieldmediacenter.com/. Viewers can click on the image of the meeting on the home page, which will take them to a link where they can watch a preview or download the file to their computer to watch later.
Strong said this is not the first time the account has received a 'strike' from YouTube. He said there was an incident near Christmas when the media center was broadcasting from Fairfield's Central Park. While showing the downtown Christmas decorations, audio from radio station KMCD played, which included copyrighted songs. Strong received a message from YouTube that having the music on the video violated its community standards, so he removed the audio from the video and posted it with no music.
Strong suspects that YouTube suspended the account this time because it was its second strike. If the Media Center gets a third strike, its account will be suspended for two weeks instead of one. Strong announced that, in order to ensure the account remains in good standing with YouTube, the channel will no longer broadcast discussion of COVID-19 except from health professionals.
The account's suspension is coming on the heels of Strong uploading hundreds of hours of archive footage to the YouTube account.
'If we were to lose the [YouTube] channel, we wouldn't lose our content because we have backups,' Strong said. 'But we would lose our viewership because more and more people are getting their content online.'
Strong said YouTube's decision to remove the video and suspend FMC's account will not affect the media center's ability to rebroadcast the meeting on the Mediacom and LISCO public access channel.
The Union reached out to Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. Evans said he is concerned that YouTube took this action with no warning to the media center or city officials that the video of the meeting would be deleted.
'I hope one of the things that comes out of this is that city officials look at other ways the content of meetings can be shared, both through live proceedings and recordings,' Evans said. 'There have got to be enough tech wizards in Fairfield to make that happen.'