The Health Ranger account is the official YouTube account for the quackery website Natural News. It has now been terminated. It received a strike on February 28 for a video that promoted a Sandy Hook truther claiming that no one died during that school shooting. The account was removed on March 3. Right now, we do not know in detail what happened beyond this, but Mike Adams posted several videos about the Parkland school shooting parroting the conspiracy swamp.
He insists that “left-wing extremist tech companies” are actively trying to “transform the entire internet into a libtard bubble of blabbering idiots” and “crush the speech of their political opponents” when they suspend people who systematically harass survivors of school shootings on social media websites. He also compared the termination of his YouTube channel to Nazi Germany on Twitter.
What is Natural News?
Natural News is one of the largest and most influential websites that promote pseudoscientific quackery on the Internet. It runs on a core combination of two deceptive tactics. First, it publishes garbled fake news articles fearmongering about medications, GMOs, vaccines, fluoride, and many common household items, relying on classic pseudoscientific methods and tropes. Second, it uses this fear to boost their sales of shady supplements and other products that aim to solve the many “problems” they just invented to scare readers with. The more ad impressions they get and the more alternative medicine products they sell, the more money they make.
The man behind Natural News is Mike Adams. He was written articles pushing nonsense about vaccines and GMOs and promoting homeopathy. He refuses to accept a large portion of the scientific knowledge base. For instance, he denies that HIV causes AIDS, rejects climate science and even the germ theory of disease. He also has other writers that publish similar misleading claims, such as promoting fear about flu vaccines, the supposed medical benefits of staring directly into the sun, a how-to guide for making your own homeopathic treatment for Ebola, and even challenging dentists to support adding arsenic to drinking water.
In reality, Mike Adams is not just behind Natural News, but an entire network of at least 50 websites. These include fake versions of Wikipedia (TruthWiki and Naturalpedia), a “superfood” website with algae that can allegedly cure cancer, his own biased Internet search engine (Good Gopher) and even a version of the PubMed database for scientific papers.
Natural News blacklisted from Google search
This is not the first time that Natural News has been in trouble with Google. In late February of 2017, the Natural News website got removed from Google search results initially unclear circumstances. This made Mike Adams go into a rage-filled tantrum. He claimed that this was an organized conspiratorial campaign against Trump supporters and a level of censorship akin to burning books or being a victim of the Gestapo. Who did he think were behind the blacklisting of Natural News? He blames the “globalists” who are “enslaving populations” and waging a “war on humanity”. In other words, standard rants common in the conspiracy swamp and fake treatment circles.
So what was the real reason Natural News got removed from Google search results? Turns out that they were using sneaky mobile redirects that were in direct violation of the Google webmaster rules. No conspiracy. No political targeting due to editorial content. Just Natural News breaking the rules.
After they fixed this issue, Natural News started to appear once more in Google search results. The entire event made Mike Adams appear even more disconnected from reality to many science advocates. Although he probably got a lot more money from followers who believed his conspiracy theories about the imminent downfall of his content.
How is YouTube trying to improve content moderation?
After years of criticism, YouTube has taken steps to try to improve moderation of their video hosting website. Normally, the content is primarily scanned and regulated by algorithms. It typically takes some effort on the part of a user to get an actual person to inspect any particular issue. Now, YouTube has hired around 10 000 humans that will help moderate the content and enforce the YouTube Community Guidelines.
The way things work at YouTube is that your account gets terminated if you get three strikes within three months. Each of them can be appealed and reviewed by a human. According to the account termination information from Google, it is also possible to be banned for a single, severe breach of the YouTube Community Guidelines or policy violations. Recent stories about people egging others to eat Tide Pods and videos harassing survivors of school shootings likely contributed to this emerging crackdown that has been going on during the last parts of February and early March.
YouTube has also created the Trusted Flagger program that provides “robust tools for government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are particularly effective at notifying YouTube of content that violates our Community Guidelines”. But what does this actually entail? According to their Google answer linked above it means several things. It means being able to flag multiple videos at a time and getting their flagging reports reviewed with some priority. It also grants access to a discussion forum for questions and ability to make more detailed arguments for why certain decisions should be taken for flagged videos.
Now, large accounts that have promoting pseudoscience, quackery, conspiracy theories and harassment are getting strikes, suspensions and account removals. Some larger brands are also starting to remove their advertisement from some of the YouTube channels that push conspiracy theories about mass shootings.
What led up to Natural News being banned from YouTube?
On February 25, Mike Adams wrote a post called “SILENCE! Twitter, YouTube scrubbing all content and banning all users who question the official (false) narrative on the Florida school shooting”. In it, he ranted about how Twitter has cracked down on harassment of the survivors of the Parkland school shooting. Adams attempts to spin this as allegedly “left-wing extremist tech companies” trying to “transform the entire internet into a libtard bubble of blabbering idiots” and “crush the speech of their political opponents”.
But targeting survivors of school shootings on social media by calling them “crisis actors” or threatening them is not disagreement. It is harassment and it violates Twitter’s rules. Merely enforcing their own rules is not extremism or a violation of someone’s free speech rights. Adams quotes a conspiracy theory from InfoWars claiming that one of the survivors were scripted on CNN, but this has been debunked by Snopes.
On February 28, Adams wrote yet another post named “Why we’re calling for the regulation of Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to halt malicious censorship and create a fair platform for public debate” where he called for government regulation of tech giants. This, of course, is somewhat ironic since a lot of content on Natural News and in the conspiracy swamp more generally often demonize government regulations.
He also insists that when these tech giants merely enforce their own rules, they are actually “censoring content simply because the psychologically fragile crybully employees who work at those companies can’t handle a point of view they don’t like”. Adams seem to confuse harassment and malicious conspiracy theories as merely another “point of view”. In general, the post is filled with appeal to false balance. Although Mike Adams seem to understand that being banned from a social media website for violating their rules is not a violation of constitutional rights to free speech, he still insist that he is being oppressed. He recommends a national class action lawsuit against these tech companies.
On March 1, Adams published another post entitled “YouTube now scrubbing older videos about SANDY HOOK shooting as content purge accelerates; strike issued against Health Ranger for 2012 interview of banned book author”. According to Adams, his YouTube account Health Ranger received a strike on February 28. The video the strike was issued against was an interview with a Sandy Hook truther. The truther had written a book claiming that no one died at Sandy Hook and this book had been removed from Amazon.
Not only does Adams link to this book twice, he also writes that “many people find the book stunningly convincing, and that’s why the book had to be banned” and that the “official story, in other words, is so fragile and full of holes that the merest questioning of it all could bring down the entire narrative.”
Adams has previously blamed the Sandy Hook shooting on psychiatric medications, which would contradict the claim that the shooting never happened. It might seem strange that conspiracy theorists can subscribe to multiple contradictory conspiracy theories, but some research indicates that this is not at all that uncommon.
On March 2, Mike Adams published the post “YouTube TYRANTS now attacking your ability to think, speak or question the state… are we living under Communist China?”. In this post, Adams becomes even more unhinged and insists that YouTube merely following its own rules amounts to living in a communist dictatorship and that “this is all a prelude to a massive false flag event” that he calls the “The Mother of all False Flags”.
Adams promotes the idea of “The Purge”, which is that improved content moderation on YouTube and Twitter amounts to a purge of conservative commentators. He mentions how Mike Cernovich has gotten a YouTube video where people are chanting death threats removed and that this must mean that YouTube supports left-wing extremists. In reality, YouTube probably removed it because videos chanting death threats likely goes against their rules.
Health Ranger account terminated by YouTube
So far, Mike Adams has acknowledged that his YouTube account Health Ranger got one strike for a video promoting the false idea that Sandy Hook was a false flag event and that no one actually died. But this does not tell us if he got up to three strikes to get the ban or if the ban was made based on a single, severe breach of the YouTube Community Guidelines.
On March 3, Adams told readers that his Health Ranger account had been terminated in the post “YouTube deletes entire Health Ranger video channel; deletes over 1700 videos in latest politically motivated censorship purge”. As the title suggests, he thinks that account termination due to violating the YouTube Community Guidelines is a form of political oppression. This alleged censorship is supposedly due to an anti-Christian campaign by Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to Social Blade the Health Ranger YouTube channel had 1765 videos, around 257 000 subscribers and 41 million video views. It appears to get a few hundred thousand views per month. It seems to generate an estimated 4 300 to 69 300 USD per year in advertisement revenue.
Adams announced that he will launch a new “alternative” video hosting site during an appearance on InfoWars. This was in some way just a matter of time. Just as proponents of pseudoscientific quackery have been forerunners in creating fake news content, it was probably just a matter of time before they started their own social media networks. This is just one example among many, such as the crowdfunding website Hatreon and the social media platform Gab. As the conspiracy swamp isolates itself further, it is not completely unexpected that they would launch their own video hosting website.
By the way, Natural News has almost 2000 videos on their Vimeo account. Sure, they just have 1625 followers at the time of this writing, but they can easily steer their other social media accounts and website to move followers to this video website instead of YouTube. The Health Ranger channel being banned from YouTube is probably just a minor setback. Their influence within the video environment is likely still substantial, considering their presence on Facebook with around 2.7 million likes.
Where was the reason for the ban?
At this point, we do not know if the account received an additional two strikes or was terminated because of a single, severe breach of the YouTube community guidelines. A detailed look at the Health Ranger Facebook page produced no specific information. A tweet posted by Mike Adams on March 3 claims there was “no reason or cause” and warns his followers about “Something BIG being planned… beware!”. He also compared the current situation to Nazi Germany:
There is not enough information available at the time of this writing to know if the channel received two additional strikes, if it was terminated based on a single, severe rule breach or if this termination was another error made by the new YouTube content moderation system experiencing growing pains. We will have to wait until more information surfaces on this issue. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.
It may be tempting for some to view this as Natural News getting evicted from YouTube, but Mike Adams probably has contingency plans to handle situations like this that brings him more attention and financial support. He should not be counted out just yet.