Sharri Markson says YouTube suspension of Sky News Australia is ‘cancellation of free speech’

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The News Corp Australia journalist Sharri Markson has told Fox News in the US that YouTube’s suspension of Sky News Australia for violating its Covid medical misinformation policy was “the most extreme cancellation of free speech imaginable”.

Markson, the investigations writer at the Australian newspaper and a Sky News presenter, appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to talk about the seven-day YouTube ban imposed on Sky News Australia. YouTube has not identified which videos violated the policy but Sky had posted numerous videos disputing the seriousness of the disease and the need for lockdowns while promoting hydoxychlorquine or invermectin.

“Sky News, the entire news network in Australia, has been censored by YouTube for an entire week for bringing responsible, informed coverage to Australian people,” Markson told Carlson. “It’s the most extreme cancellation of free speech imaginable.”

Carlson agreed and said Australia had “turned into a Covid dictatorship” where merely asking questions about masks could get you censored on the internet.

Related: Six videos by Sky News Australia hosts Alan Jones, Rowan Dean and Rita Panahi removed from YouTube

But a professor of politics and public policy at the University of Queensland, Katharine Gelber, said the right to free speech carried with it certain responsibilities.

“This is not a cancellation of free speech,” Gelber said on Wednesday. “This is a sensible exercise in balancing people’s rights with people’s responsibility in an era in which this kind of misinformation can cause considerable and long-term harm.

“Those who speak most frequently and loudest about free speech act as though, unlike any other human right on the face of the earth, it doesn’t carry with it commensurate responsibilities.”

YouTube has refused to detail which videos it removed but Guardian Australia has uncovered at least six videos – five of which promoted hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin as treatment for Covid – which were deleted after allegedly violating the tech giant’s policies.

The videos were made by Alan Jones and Outsiders hosts Rowan Dean and Rita Panahi.

In one video, Panahi said “the leftist media’s disdain for Trump” meant it was “willing to have lives lost” due to opposition to hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19.

Sky’s digital editor, Jack Houghton, has reported that videos that questioned the effectiveness of masks and lockdowns were also targeted.

Markson said the broadcaster presented “responsible” information to the public while the US president, Joe Biden, the White House chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, and the World Health Organization were the ones “actually guilty of misinformation”.

“[WHO] is the body guilty of extreme misinformation and yet this is who the tech giants like YouTube are relying on for their advice when they decide to censor an entire news network,” she said.

In May 2020, Markson appeared on Carlson to say she had a “bombshell dossier” that showed some of the world’s foremost intelligence agencies were investigating whether the coronavirus was linked to a lab in Wuhan.

Sky News Australia, which has 1.86m subscribers on YouTube, is still available on Foxtel, Facebook, streaming apps, online at skynews.com.au and on regional free-to-air television where it launched a new channel on Sunday.

Gelber said the limits on free speech were well recognised philosophically and legally.

“It’s something that conservatives once professed to understand,” she said.

“The reason that a number of countries around the world have developed Covid medical misinformation and disinformation policies is because the wrong information about Covid can cause considerable harm during an international pandemic.

“YouTube is a private organisation, and therefore can and has developed transparent policies regarding harmful content. There is a global outcry over harmful content on social media, to which the social media companies are responding by developing content and community standards.”

Related: Axed yet still ‘compelling’, Alan Jones is neither down nor out at News Corp

Gelber dismissed Sky News claims they were airing legitimate debate.

“We see the airing of different expert views about the appropriate way to approach Covid on our news every single night. This is clearly not that,” she said.

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Guardian Australia has found Sky News recently deleted several videos including Dean in September 2020 stating “the jury is in on hydroxychloroquine – it saves lives” and Jones stating there had been “rank dishonesty” around hydroxychloroquine and Australians were being denied access.

In another removed video published in September 2020, the then Liberal MP Craig Kelly claimed “study after study that shows that hydroxychloroquine, when administered early, can lower the rates of [Covid] infections”.

A video featuring Andrew Bolt speaking to Australian gastroenterologist Prof Thomas Borody about ivermectin use in treating Covid was also taken down.

Guardian Australia sought comment from Sky News and YouTube about the recent deletion of the videos.

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