Quebec conspiracy theorist kicked off YouTube for spreading COVID-19 misinformation
Radio-Québec loses another platform after being booted from Facebook last week
Quebec's best-known conspiracy theorist, Alexis Cossette-Trudel, lost another media platform on Thursday when YouTube shut down his account, which had more than 120,000 subscribers.
YouTube said it was removing Cossette-Trudel's channel, Radio-Québec, for "repeatedly violating our community guidelines regarding COVID-19 misinformation." The news was first reported by Radio-Canada.
Last week, Facebook shut down both Cossette-Trudel's personal account and his Radio-Québec account, where he had also gained a large following.
Facebook said it took action against Radio-Québec because of its affiliation with the QAnon conspiracy movement, which believes, among other things, that world events are controlled by a cabal of Satanic pedophiles.
YouTube said Thursday it too is taking measures to keep QAnon content off its platform. It announced that it will remove videos that target "an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence."
A spokesperson for YouTube told CBC News that 60 channels and 1,800 videos were removed Thursday under the new policy, and more terminations were expected in the coming weeks.
Among those who were stripped of their accounts was the Amazing Polly, a QAnon propagandist from Ontario known for having spread the (debunked) rumour that online retailer Wayfair was selling children on its website.
YouTube spokesperson Zaitoon Murji said Radio-Québec was removed not for its ties to QAnon but for spreading incorrect information about COVID-19.
WATCH | Quebec conspiracy theorist removed from Facebook:
Influence grew as pandemic worsened
The number of subscribers to Radio-Québec's YouTube channel have more than tripled since the start of the pandemic.
In his videos, some of which have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, Cossette-Trudel repeats groundless claims that the dangers of COVID-19 are being exaggerated as part of a plot to undermine U.S. President Donald Trump.
He also routinely maintains — without evidence — that Quebec government officials are manipulating statistics about deaths and hospitalizations. He argues that public health restrictions, such as wearing masks indoors, are unjustified.
Thanks to his social media following, Cossette-Trudel has become a leading figure within the movement opposing Quebec's public-health rules. He spoke at several anti-mask demonstrations in the summer and fall.
The Quebec government has expressed growing concern about the influence of conspiracy theories in the province.
Premier François Legault said last week they posed a "real problem" to the government's efforts at curbing the second wave of coronavirus infections. (The province reported 969 new cases on Thursday).
"It doesn't help to convince the population to follow our guidelines," Legault said.
Cossette-Trudel continues to broadcast on smaller, lesser-known social media channels, but his following there is a fraction of what it was on YouTube and Facebook.