YouTube bans anti-vaccine misinformation - The New York Times

YouTube said on Wednesday it was banning the accounts of several prominent anti-vaccine activists from its platform, including those of ...


YouTube said on Wednesday it was banning the accounts of several prominent anti-vaccine activists from its platform, including those of Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., as part of an effort to remove any content that falsely claims approved vaccines are dangerous.

In a blog post, Youtube said it would remove videos claiming that vaccines do not reduce rates of transmission or contraction of the disease, and content that includes misinformation about the composition of vaccines. Claims that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility, or that the vaccines contain trackers will also be removed.

The platform, which is owned by Google, has a similar ban on disinformation about Covid-19 vaccines. But the new policy extends the rules to misleading claims about long-standing approved vaccines, such as those for measles and hepatitis B, as well as lies about vaccines in general, YouTube said. Personal vaccine stories, content on vaccine policies and new vaccine trials, and historical videos of vaccine successes or failures will be allowed to remain on the site.

“Today’s policy update is an important step in tackling vaccine and health misinformation on our platform, and we will continue to invest at all levels” in policies that bring to its users provide high-quality information, the company said in its announcement.

In addition to banning Dr Mercola and Mr Kennedy, YouTube has taken down the accounts of other leading anti-vaccination campaigners such as Erin Elizabeth and Sherri Tenpenny, a company spokeswoman said.

The new policy puts YouTube more in line with Facebook and Twitter. In February, Facebook said that it would remove posts with false vaccine claims, including removing claims that vaccines cause autism or that it is safer for people to get the coronavirus than to be vaccinated against it. But the platform remains a popular destination for people discussing disinformation, such as the unfounded claim that the Ivermectin, a pharmaceutical drug, is an effective treatment for Covid-19.

In March, Twitter introduces its own policy which explained the penalties for sharing lies about the virus and vaccines. But the company has a rule of five “moves” before permanently banning people from violating its coronavirus disinformation policy.

The accounts of such well-known anti-vaccination activists as Dr Mercola and Mr Kennedy remain active on Facebook and Twitter, although Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has suspended Mr Kennedy’s account.

Misinformation researchers have for years pointed to the proliferation of anti-vaccine content on social media as a factor in reluctance to vaccinate – including slowing adoption rates of the Covid-19 vaccine in more conservative states. Reports have shown that YouTube videos often serve as a source of content that then goes viral on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, sometimes racking up tens of millions of views.

“The policies of one platform affect the application of all the others because of the way networks work between services,” said Evelyn Douek, a professor at Harvard Law School who focuses on online discourse. and disinformation. “YouTube is one of the most related areas on Facebook, for example. “

She added, “It is not possible to think of these issues platform by platform. This is not how anti-vaccination groups see them. We need to think about the Internet ecosystem as a whole.

Prominent anti-vaccine campaigners have long been able to build large audiences online, aided by the algorithmic powers of social media that prioritize videos and posts that do particularly well in capturing people’s attention. A nonprofit group, Center for Countering Digital Hate, this year released a study showing that a group of 12 people were responsible for sharing 65% of all anti-vaccine messages on social media, dubbing the group the “Dozen of disinformation”. In July, the White House cited the research as criticizing tech companies for allowing disinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines to spread widely, triggering a tense back and forth between the administration and Facebook.

Dr Mercola, osteopathic doctor, took first place in Disinformation Dozen. His Facebook and Instagram subscribers total more than three million, while his YouTube account, before its deletion, had nearly half a million subscribers. Dr Mercola’s Twitter account, still active, has more than 320,000 followers.

YouTube said that in the past year it has removed more than 130,000 videos for violating its Covid-19 vaccination policies. But that didn’t include what the video platform called “borderline videos” that discussed vaccine skepticism on the site. In the past, the company would simply remove these videos from search results and recommendations, while promoting videos from experts and public health institutions.

Ben decker contributed research.



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YouTube bans anti-vaccine misinformation - The New York Times
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