YouTube expands policies to ban all anti vax content

Google-owned streaming giant YouTube has expanded its medical misinformation policies, now banning all misinformation on vaccines generally, beyond just COVID-19 vaccinations.

YouTube said in a blogpost that there has been a steady rise of false claims regarding COVID 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”.

While the community guidelines on YouTube already do not allow certain aspects of medical misinformation, the platform said that at the onset of the pandemic, it worked with medical experts to build on its policies, developing ten new policies specifically centred around COVID-19 misinformation.

This has resulted in over 130,000 videos being removed for violating these policies since last year. Google also said the new policies come after consultation with health organisations and experts.

Last month, Google’s director of public policy for Australia and New Zealand, Lucinda Longcroft and Samantha Yorke, senior manager, government affairs and public policy, Australia and New Zealand appeared at the media diversity in Australia senate hearing, to defend YouTube’s ban of Sky News Australia’s channel, following a strike for violating it’s misinformation policies. 

Longcroft affirmed to the committee that Google’s policies aim to strike a balance between providing the greatest amount of information available while also ensuring safety to the community, stating that YouTube is not an ‘anything goes’ platform.

She also clarified that subsequent to the publisher’s ban from the platform, 23 videos in total were removed for breaching its COVID-19 misinformation policies.

The new policies ban misinformation on all anti-vaccine misinformation.

The new policies, which are effective immediately, will cover “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”.

This also includes content that falsely links approved vaccines to autism, cancer or infertility, or that any substance in a vaccine can “track those who receive them”.

“Our policies not only cover specific routine immunisations like for measles or Hepatitis B, but also apply to general statements about vaccines.”

The policies, while live now, will take time for YouTube’s systems to fully ramp up enforcement of, as with any other significant update, according to YouTube.

The platform will allow exceptions, in order to protect public discussion and debate to scientific processes. This includes: “content about vaccine policies, new vaccine trials, and historical vaccine successes or failures on YouTube. 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.”


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