YouTube cracks down on anti-vax videos

Published September 30, 2021
A YouTube logo seen at the YouTube Space LA in Playa Del Rey, Los Angeles, California, United States. — Reuters/File
A YouTube logo seen at the YouTube Space LA in Playa Del Rey, Los Angeles, California, United States. — Reuters/File

SAN FRANCISCO: YouTube said on Wednesday it would remove videos that falsely claim approved vaccines are dangerous, as social networks seek to crack down on health misinformation around Covid-19 and other diseases.

Video-sharing giant YouTube has already banned posts that spread false myths around coronavirus treatments, including ones that share inaccurate claims about Covid-19 vaccines shown to be safe.

But the Google-owned site said its concerns about the spread of medical conspiracy theories went beyond the pandemic.

“We’ve steadily seen false claims about the coronavirus vaccines spill over into misinformation about vaccines in general,” the Google-owned website said in a statement.

“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.” The expanded policy will apply to “currently administered vaccines that are approved and confirmed to be safe and effective by local health authorities and the WHO (World Health Organisation).” It will see false claims about routine immunisations for diseases like measles and Hepatitis B removed from YouTube.

These would include cases where vloggers have claimed that approved vaccines do not work, or wrongly linked them to chronic health effects.

Content that “falsely says that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility, or that substances in vaccines can track those who receive them” will also be taken down.

“As with any significant update, it will take time for our systems to fully ramp up enforcement,” YouTube added.

It stressed there would be exceptions to the new guidelines, with personal testimonials of negative experiences with vaccines still allowed, so long as “the channel doesn’t show a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy.” YouTube said it had removed more than 130,000 videos since last year for violating its Covid-19 vaccine policies.

On Tuesday, the company told German media that it had blocked the German-language channels of Russia’s state broadcaster RT for violating its Covid misinformation guidelines.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2021

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