Dr. Scott W. Atlas is a learned and accomplished man. He’s a neuroradiologist, which focuses on the diagnosis and characterization of abnormalities of the central and peripheral nervous system. He’s also been a professor, a commentator and a health care policy advisor.
Atlas now serves as an adviser on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. But that’s not good enough for YouTube.
The doctor sat down in June with the Hoover Institution, the Stanford University-based conservative think tank, where he serves as a senior fellow. But the Google-owned YouTube has decided to censor the video as it “contradicts the World Health Organization or local health authorities’ medical information about COVID-19.”
Dr. Scott Atlas is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, an accomplished physician, and a scholar of public health. For several weeks, Dr. Atlas has been making the case in print and in other media that we as a society have overreacted in imposing draconian restrictions on movement, gatherings, schools, sports, and other activities. He is not a COVID-19 denier—he believes the virus is a real threat and should be managed as such. But, as Dr. Atlas argues, there are some age groups and activities that are subject to very low risk. The one-size-fits-all approach we are currently using is overly authoritarian, inefficient, and not based in science. Dr. Atlas’s prescription includes more protection for people in nursing homes, two weeks of strict self-isolation for those with mild symptoms, and most importantly, the opening of all K–12 schools.
While Atlas has different views on the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the fact that YouTube can shut him down is disturbing.
“The justification for this move is similar to those given for the many other instances of YouTube censorship of videos about the COVID-19 crisis. The company has taken upon itself the obligation, as it sees it, to prevent the spread of conspiracy theories about the pandemic as well as misinformation that might compromise public health,” The Federalist wrote.
Atlas didn’t deny the seriousness of the disease or the need to act to prevent its spread — he merely questioned the efficacy of broad lockdowns. Atlas pointed out the resulting creation of acute economic distress as well as other unintended consequences that compromised public health such as the decrease in doctor visits or treatments for other potentially fatal conditions as well as the effects of school closings on childhood development as well as upticks of abuse.
By any reasonable standard, the questions he poses as well as the data about the costs of lockdowns that he discussed are not only fair comments but also an important topic of public debate. His conclusions can be questioned. The same is true about his ideas about the wisdom of opening all schools and whether such actions would contribute to another wave of infections. But the idea that any discussion of these issues can be shut down with a single click makes the question of regulating the untrammeled censoring power of a global tech monopoly like Google all the more important.