On Tuesday, Youtube removed a 20-minute speech Issa made addressing government employees and tech executives about open access to data. During his speech, he briefly highlighted the controversy surrounding the efficacy of Russia's Sputnik vaccine for the coronavirus.
“What was amazing is it wasn't what I said. It was who said it,” Issa said when asked what exactly in the speech got him censored.”
Issa compared both Russia's and America's vaccination efforts to the Cold War's space race in his speech:
But as I was talking about technology and our role and so on, I brought up the example of how Sputnik, in the case of the vaccine, arrived first, but not as good as America. Where we came into the space race and had to catch up, but we not only caught up, but we produce superior products. So in that analogy, which was very much a side note to the speech. I disparaged the Sputnik vaccine. Now that's the only time I talked about health because this speech was not about vaccines or health or anything else. And they took it down and cited, specifically cited, these, you know, the health and vaccine, so I know why it was taken down.”
Issa noted that his point about the Russian vaccine program being inferior was reported by many mainstream outlets who criticized the Sputnik vaccine because it is not acceptable for international travel.
On Sunday, ABC News reported the problems with international travel because the Sputnik vaccine is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
Sputnik itself said it was 60% effective until we came out with Pfizer in the 90s. And then they raised their effectiveness without any study, or third party. And so this is not controversial that Sputnik is an inferior product, and less well regarded even today, and yet they took it down over that statement.
“Oddly enough, I was in no way to disparage any other vaccines other than this relative one. So it wasn't the subject of the speech. It was a side note, but it happened to be accurate, but it was a conservative talking about vaccine even tangentially and so they use [it] as an excuse [to] take out an entire 20 minute speech about open access to technology.”
Issa criticized Youtube's medical misinformation policy because “They are using it to censor Republicans, conservatives, and their algorithm has no validity.” He also called out the hypocrisy of big tech for silencing his views even though the mainstream articles he got his information from remain online.
“Whether it's Fauci or hundreds of other scientists or all of these major news organizations, none of them that I just noted was particularly right wing. They don't get taken down for saying the same thing that, by the way, happens to be true,” Issa said.
“It doesn't have to be true, to be protected by free speech. And so, you know, we we have to protect free speech, which we're not doing until we stop the censoring of speech that we disagree with, that might be untrue,” Issa added.
Issa gave two real-world examples of what would happen if big tech became the arbiter of truth:
But I always give this example because I think it's the easiest one. If Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy get up and talk about a bill, one of them could be taken down because it says the opposite of the other. Okay. By definition, if you're simply able to say we're going to determine which one is the truth and take down the other one, then there is not any longer going to be free. speech as we know it. That means that when a prosecutor and a defense attorney, each talk about the defense attorneys client, one of them will have all their words taken off of YouTube and Google because obviously they're going to decide which ones telling the truth. We can't have this kind of censorship.”
Issa emphasized that his comments did not call into question either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, yet Youtube still took it down under the guise of “medical misinformation.”
Google and YouTube have censored me!
Big Tech will stop at nothing to silence conservatives. pic.twitter.com/pmBepcg0NW
— Rep. Darrell Issa (@repdarrellissa) November 9, 2021
“And in this case, I happen to be speaking in a way in which I was not disparaging American vaccines. I was not inaccurate, and yet I was taken down. And in some ways, it's the best example of taking someone down because of who they are not because of what they said.”
“We need to eliminate 230 as we know it,” Issa said when asked what needs to be done to protect the first amendment. “230” refers to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants internet platforms like Youtube broad immunity concerning third-party content. Section 230 was enacted in 1996 during the early years of internet browsing.
“I'm perfectly happy to have section 230 protect someone who leaves something up that I might find reprehensible that I might find false that I might find, in some way disparaging and I'm and I'm okay. With that. But I'm not okay with taking down something because a liberal writing an algorithm in San Jose decides that if your name is Darryl Issa or Jim Jordan, you need to disappear.”
Issa's feelings are not partisan, as he said, “if it was Barney Frank or Nancy Pelosi, I would feel just as strongly that, you know, they're wrong, but they have a right to be wrong.”
When asked if Congress intended for section 230 to allow platforms to censor U.S. politicians, Issa said, “they never intended to go as far as it's gone. And for the most part, what they wanted it to do was to protect someone's ability to say something that I might find reprehensible, that I might find objectionable, because ultimately, that's the freedom that we want.”
Issa gave another example of how big tech's censorship could lead to an infringement on the first amendment right to exercise religion freely:
I happen to be an Orthodox Christian, so I'm sort of an old faith. But you know, each of us believes in whatever religion you belong to beliefs by definition, that there is one truth and it's the one that we practice. Can you can you imagine when they decide that there's only one truth? And it's probably atheism.
Issa mentioned that he is not the only Republican legislator that's been censored by big tech, with some even having their floor speeches get removed. “When one of our outspoken members you know, Congresswoman Taylor or something, gets taken down It's like, ‘Well, this was this is a little edgy.' And I believe that we need to stop that, she has every right to be edgy, he has every right to say what she believes.”
Issa noted that Google owns Youtube and the same censorship on the video streaming platform happens on the search engine. “And if you Google search ‘Sputnik vaccine' you're gonna find practically not a, zero article.” “But everything you read is going to say that this is not as good a vaccine if you can get an American vaccine get it is what all the articles say,” Issa said.
Issa concluded by saying, “that's where we are, we've reached a point where even if they agree with you, they will take you down if they disagree with your politics.”
Google and YouTube didn’t even pretend to fact check what I said. They just want to shut down free speech.
— Rep. Darrell Issa (@repdarrellissa) November 9, 2021