YouTube to crack down on all anti-vaccine content



The video-sharing giant has extended its existing ban on Covid-19 anti-vaccination content to all vaccine-sceptic material.

Video-sharing platform YouTube has said it will block all anti-vaccine content, including but not limited to Covid-19 vaccination misinformation.

The social media giant will ban prominent anti-vaccine activists, such as Robert F Kennedy Jr and Joseph Mercola, who share anti-vaccine content on their channels.

Last year, it was reported that Covid-19 misinformation videos attracted around 62m views on YouTube.

Also in 2020, the Alphabet Inc-owned company removed hundreds of thousands of videos sharing anti-vaccination content that specifically mentioned Covid-19. However, it has revised its policy after some anti-vaccination activists began dodging the ban threat by discussing their theories without mentioning Covid-19.

YouTube’s ban will now extend to all anti-vaccination misinformation, such as that relating to autism. Matt Halprin, YouTube’s vice-president for trust and safety, said he could “imagine viewers then potentially extrapolating” the theories raised by the activists to Covid-19. He added that YouTube wanted to make sure it was “covering the whole gamut”.

Garth Graham, YouTube’s global head of health care said: “There’s a lot of scientific stability around vaccine safety and effectiveness.”

Halprin said there would not be a complete ban on people discussing vaccines from their personal point of view. He said people would be permitted to engage in “scientific discussion” about vaccines. If these discussions evolve into broader vaccination criticism, they will be removed.

There has been a significant amount of political pressure on YouTube – and other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook – of late to address their policies in relation to anti-vaccination content. US president Joe Biden criticised the companies for not doing enough to stifle vaccine sceptics. In March of this year, the CEOs of the major Big Tech companies appeared before the US Congress to discuss preventative measures against vaccine misinformation on their platforms.

In 2019, image-sharing platform Pinterest proved it was ahead of the curve, after it stopped showing search results for anti-vaccine content in a bid to tackle medical misinformation.

YouTube has also faced criticism from Russia, following its decision to remove two German-language channels run by Russian state-backed broadcaster RT. A spokesperson for the Russian president Vladimir Putin said the company had violated Russian law by censoring the content. The content was removed by YouTube for breaching its new, stricter community guidelines on “medical misinformation.”

Moscow’s media watchdog has said it will consider sanctioning YouTube.

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