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YouTube extends ban on videos spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

By Arghyadeep on Sep 30, 2021 | 02:30 AM IST

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Key Points

• Youtube extended its medical misinformation guidelines and will ban videos spreading false claims about approved vaccine

• Youtube has removed 130,000 videos since last year, which violated the COVID-19 vaccine policy

• The platform has removed high-profile anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr, Joseph Mercola


Alphabet Inc’s YouTube on Wednesday said it is expanding its medical misinformation policies to include new guidelines to ban videos that spread false claims about vaccine safety, the efficacy of vaccines, and ingredients in vaccines.

The change in policy comes at a time when global COVID-19 vaccination rates are slowing down.

While Canada and the UK have vaccination rates of 71% and 67%, respectively, the U.S. has about 55% fully vaccinated people.

President Joe Biden earlier said social media platforms are “killing people” by allowing disinformation about the coronavirus vaccine to spread online, and the White House had to enlist the help of rising superstars like Olivia Rodrigo to encourage Americans to get vaccinated.


Change in guidelines

The Google-owned video platform has had a similar ban on misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines. However, the new policy extends to contain not only general false statements about vaccines that are confirmed safe by local health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) but also routine immunizations, like measles and Hepatitis B.

“Today’s policy update is an important step to address vaccine and health misinformation on our platform, and we’ll continue to invest across the board” in policies that bring its users high-quality information, the company said in its announcement.


Content removal

Youtube said it has removed over 130,000 videos for violating the COVID-19 vaccine policies since last year. The video platform has removed the accounts of high-profile anti-vaccine activists Robert Kennedy Jr, Joseph Mercola, and others as part of a crackdown on misinformation.

In the blog post, Youtube said it would remove content that falsely alleges that approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects, claims that vaccines do not reduce transmission or contraction of the virus, or contains misinformation on the substances contained in vaccines.

False claims of approved vaccines cause autism, cancer, or infertility, or that substances in vaccines can track those who receive them, will also be removed.

“There are important exceptions to our new 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 blog post said.

The platform will also allow users to discuss their personal experiences with vaccines, as long as the video doesn’t violate the guidelines. Moreover, Youtube said if a channel shows a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy, the company may remove the content.

Although the new guidelines will be enforced from today, YouTube wrote that, as with any new policy, it will take time to “fully ramp up enforcement.”

Picture Credit: Hindustan Times

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