The Bakersfield Californian
Apr. 26—A tiff with YouTube over content livestreamed during a meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors has caused the county to cease streaming meetings on the platform.
The county said public comments made during an April 5 supervisors’ meeting caused the video to be removed. The county’s official account also received a “strike” and was prevented from uploading videos for a week.
If a channel receives three strikes within 90 days, it is terminated. As a result, the county plans to halt its practice of livestreaming meetings on the platform rather than risk incurring more strikes.
Meetings will continue to be broadcasted on Kern Government Television and streamed on kerncounty.com.
“We use our YouTube page to share a lot of content,” said county spokeswoman Ally Soper. “It’s really important for us to think about how we can best maintain access to our public and not risk losing our YouTube platform because we do want to keep that open and available.”
But a YouTube spokesperson told The Californian on Tuesday the video was mistakenly removed and did not violate the platform’s rules.
“When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been mistakenly removed, we review the content and take appropriate action, including restoring relevant videos or channels,” a YouTube spokesperson said in an email to The Californian. “We also offer uploaders the ability to appeal removals and we will re-review the content, as we did for this video.”
The video in question involved a lengthy discussion of the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems, a company that found itself under heavy scrutiny after Joe Biden defeated then-President Donald Trump in 2020.
In the weeks following Biden’s victory, misinformation regarding election integrity spread like wildfire online, ultimately resulting in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Claims that Dominion machines flipped votes from Trump to Biden — which have not been confirmed in detailed studies of certain districts’ election processes — proliferated on social media.
YouTube has instituted “community guidelines” that prohibit accounts from posting content that “advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of select past national elections, after final election results are officially certified.”
On April 5, multiple speakers called into question the results of the 2020 and 2021 election. One woman even claimed to have been sent to the meeting by “Q,” a reference to the QAnon conspiracy theory that alleges a global ring of cannibalistic child sex abusers conspired against Trump while he was in office.
The guidelines also prohibit false claims on candidate eligibility, a topic that also came up during the April 5 meeting.
Supervisors ultimately ended up renewing the Dominion contract unanimously.
The tech giant does allow exceptions to its guidelines if that content provides educational, documentary, scientific or artistic value.
However, for the time being, the county’s decision to stop streaming meetings on YouTube remains.
“Here at Kern County, our biggest priority is to make sure that everyone in our community feels like they can engage in local government. We want to exceed expectations in serving our community,” Soper said. “We are very grateful that we have our own internal platforms to do that. We truly wish that there would be endless opportunities to get our story out to the public.”
It is unclear what exactly triggered YouTube to issue the strike against the county. The city of Bakersfield, which posts videos of City Council meetings to YouTube, has not been disciplined for supposed violations.
You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.
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