YouTube cracks down on all anti-vaccine content

Alongside the launch of the new policy, YouTube has banned a number of prominent anti-vaccine activists.

YouTube cracks down on all anti-vaccine content
Esther Vargas/Creative Commons
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The Google-owned video-sharing platform, YouTube, has broadened its censorship policy to ban all medical and vaccine “misinformation” under a new policy. 

According to YouTube, scientific understanding of medicine evolves with the emergence of new research, and firsthand, personal experience. The platform says that these developments play “a powerful role in online discourse.” 

“Vaccines in particular have been a source of fierce debate over the years, despite consistent guidance from health authorities about their effectiveness,” YouTube wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. 

“Today, we're expanding our medical misinformation policies on YouTube with new guidelines on currently administered vaccines that are approved and confirmed to be safe and effective by local health authorities and the WHO,” it adds. 

YouTube previously removed “over 130,000 videos” that were in violation of the site’s COVID-19 vaccine policies. 

“Throughout this work, we learned important lessons about how to design and enforce nuanced medical misinformation policies at scale. Working closely with health authorities, we looked to balance our commitment to an open platform with the need to remove egregious harmful content,” YouTube added. “We’ve steadily seen false claims about the coronavirus vaccines spill over into misinformation about vaccines in general, and we’re now at a point where it’s more important than ever to expand the work we started with COVID-19 to other vaccines.”

In the article, YouTube lists specific content it says violates the new policy standards. 

“Specifically, content that falsely alleges that approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects, claims that vaccines do not reduce transmission or contraction of disease, or contains misinformation on the substances contained in vaccines will be removed,” YouTube said. “This would include content that falsely says that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility, or that substances in vaccines can track those who receive them. Our policies not only cover specific routine immunizations like for measles or Hepatitis B, but also apply to general statements about vaccines.”

YouTube says there are “important exceptions” to the announced guidelines. 

“Given the importance of public discussion and debate to the scientific process, we will continue to allow content about vaccine policies, new vaccine trials, and historical vaccine successes or failures on YouTube,” the platform stated. “Personal testimonials relating to vaccines will also be allowed, so long as the video doesn’t violate other Community Guidelines, or the channel doesn’t show a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy.”

Alongside the launch of the new policy, YouTube has banned a number of prominent anti-vaccine activists. The policy puts the platform in line with efforts already undertaken by Facebook and Twitter, which have banned thousands of individuals for violating their standards on medical misinformation. 

The move follows an announcement earlier this year when Facebook announced its plan to remove or demote posts that included content discouraging vaccinations. In March, Twitter did the same, and referred to the content as “harmful misinformation.”

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  • By David Menzies

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