Google is now applying its controversial coronavirus misinformation policies to users’ personal files.
Ever since Big Tech platforms started cracking down on what they deem to be coronavirus misinformation, the media has been willfully flagging alleged violations to social media companies and getting content taken down.
And now the file storage and sharing service Google Drive has started to take down users’ files in response to media complaints about them containing coronavirus misinformation.
In an article reporting on the takedown, The Washington Post’s Silicon Valley Correspondent Elizabeth Dwoskin complains that after the coronavirus documentary Plandemic was censored on social media, some YouTube clips were telling users how to access “banned footage” from the documentary via Google Drive.
She then notes that after The Washington Post contacted Google, Google Drive took down a file featuring the trailer for the Plandemic documentary.
Dwoskin frames users sharing files containing the Plandemic trailer with each other as:
“A wave of seemingly countless workarounds employed by people motivated to spread misinformation about the virus — efforts that continue to thwart social media companies’ attempts at preventing hoaxes and conspiracy theories from spreading amid the greatest public health crisis in decades.”
Dwoskin also writes that The Washington Post reported 12 videos to YouTube, 61 Facebook posts and Instagram links to Facebook, and 24 videos to TikTok for featuring the Plandemic trailer.
In response, YouTube removed five of the videos, Facebook removed nine of the posts, and TikTok said it removed most of the videos.
The Plandemic trailer isn’t the only file that’s been censored on Google Drive in recent months.
After SpaceX and Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk linked to what Dwoskin describes as a “questionable study” about the efficacy of the drug hydroxychloroquine in March, Google blocked access to the document.
For many Google Drive users, the service is their only file storage solution and they use it to save copies of videos and posts that have been deleted or censored on other platforms.
If this precedent continues, it could mean these users have their only copy of content that has been scrubbed from social media platforms taken down because they shared a link to those files with other people.
According to Google Drive’s policies, distributing what Google deems to be “misleading content related to civic and democratic processes,” “misleading content related to harmful health practices,” “manipulated media” is prohibited with possible exceptions when the content is used in an “educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic context.”
Google “doesn’t go into details” about how those policies are enforced” or whether it scans files to ensure compliance.
The takedown of the Plandemic file is reflective of the increasingly aggressive moderation standards big tech companies are employing when it comes to what users are allowed to say about the coronavirus.
At first, these strict moderation standards applied to public posts on their social media platforms.
Now just a few months after these policies were introduced, these big tech companies are already starting to dictate which documents and files users are allowed to share with others and taking down the files when users don’t comply.
By Tom Parker