Michigan Republican candidate for governor banned by YouTube

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Michigan Republican gubernatorial hopeful Garrett Soldano says he's been permanently banned from YouTube, a social media platform he's used to build a following by questioning the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

YouTube said in an email to Soldano early Monday that his channel included "severe or repeated violations" of the company's community guidelines.

YouTube didn't identify which specific policies the Mattawan chiropractor and anti-lockdown activist had broken, but the guidelines prohibit content "that contradicts local health authorities' or the World Health Organization’s medical information about COVID-19."

Unlock Michigan Co-Chairs Garrett Soldano and Meshawn Maddock, left to right, speak to supporters Oct. 2, 2020, as they submitted signatures for a petition initiative that sought to revoke a 1945 emergency powers act for Michigan's governors. Soldano said Monday that he has been permanently banned from YouTube.

Soldano's YouTube account, which he had used to share videos on his thoughts covering an array of issues including the pandemic, had more than 9,000 subscribers, according to his campaign.

"This is yet another example of Big Tech oligarchs silencing conservative voices," Soldano said in a statement. "As a grassroots candidate for governor, we rely on platforms to connect with voters and share our message, and our campaign has been targeted repeatedly by liberal social media giants."

According to its letter to Soldano, the candidate has a chance to appeal the decision.

"If we think a channel severely violates our policies, we take it down to protect other users on the platform," YouTube said in its message to Soldano.

Soldano has regularly posted videos on Facebook and YouTube since the pandemic began last spring. Many of the clips have featured him criticizing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's actions on COVID-19. In recent clips, Soldano has made dubious claims, including saying kids having to wear masks is hurting them physically and has contended those with natural immunity — meaning they have already recovered from COVID-19 — don't need to get vaccinated.

He's also been critical of mask mandates, calling masks "face diapers."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools. The CDC also recommends that people who have already had the virus still get vaccinated.

"Research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after you recover from COVID-19," the CDC says.

At the beginning of the pandemic last year, Soldano founded a group called Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine with a page that gained more than 380,000 followers on Facebook. Facebook eventually shut down the page. At the time, Soldano told media outlets that Facebook had flagged it for violating standards against advocating the spread of COVID-19. But he described the page as "non-violent" and a "positive movement."

Soldano is one of 11 Michigan Republicans who have formed fundraising committees since the last election to run for governor in 2022. The primary election will take place in August.