Over the last year, YouTube has removed over 130,000 videos for violating its Covid-19 vaccine policies. Now it has announced that it is expanding on this clampdown on medical misinformation. To get to this stage, where it can draw a clear line in the sand, YouTube has consulted closely with local health authorities and the WHO.
While YouTube admits that videos from ordinary users about their personal experience with vaccines might be useful in online discourse, there are limits that have been long in place on the site that clamp down on content promoting potentially harmful remedies, like for example – telling viewers that the drinking of Turpentine can cure diseases.
In the latest content rules update, several key criteria are weighed by YouTube in checking if a video will be harmful to the public. It summarises that "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 by its moderators.
As well as individual videos, Reuters reports that channels run by prominent anti-vaccine activists are going to be removed. It notes that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Joseph Mercola's channels are going in the bin. A press statement for Mercola said, "we will not live in fear, we will stand together and restore our freedoms." Meanwhile, the German language version of Russian state backed RT were deleted from YouTube because of repeated Covid-19 misinformation.
YouTube has hastened its response as it says that Covid-19 misinformation has inspired the growth of misinformation about vaccines in general. Increasing numbers of videos are sharing misinformation about long used vaccines for measles or Hepatitis B, for example.
The above measures coincide with YouTube's initiatives to increase authoritative health information on its platform. I've seen many predictions recently of telehealth being a big business opportunity on the horizon, so this may also have inspired YouTube to clean up some of its dodgy health and medical videos.