In a far-reaching expansion of its medical misinformation policies, YouTube on Wednesday said it will remove videos and ban channels that spread misinformation about any approved vaccine, not only those intended to prevent Covid-19.
The Alphabet-owned video company said the new measure would affect any content claiming that approved vaccines are dangerous, cause chronic health ailments, do not reduce transmission and contain misinformation on the substances contained in the vaccines.
“This would include content that falsely says that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility, or that substances in vaccines can track those who receive them,” YouTube said in a blog posting.
The company’s community guidelines already prohibit certain types of medical misinformation. Last year, it developed 10 new policies about Covid-19 misinformation.
Since then, it has removed more than 130,000 videos for violating its Covid-19 vaccine policies.
“We have steadily seen false claims about the coronavirus vaccines spill over into misinformation about vaccines in general … we are now at a point where it's more important than ever to expand the work we started with Covid-19 to other vaccines,” YouTube said.
“Today’s policy update is an important step to address vaccine and health misinformation on our platform … we will continue to invest across the board in the policies and products that bring high-quality information,” it added.
Founded in 2005, YouTube has launched local versions in more than 100 countries and its content is available in over 80 languages. It has about two billion logged-in users each month and every day, people watch more than a billion hours of video, company data show.
The California-based video platform has consulted local and global health organisations and medical experts to develop its new policies. For example, its new guidance on vaccine side effects maps to public vaccine resources provided by health authorities and backed by medical consensus, the company said.
The new policy changes went into effect on Wednesday.
YouTube will remove the channels of many well-known vaccine misinformation spreaders under the new policy, including one belonging to the Children's Health Defence Fund, a group affiliated with anti-vaccine activist Robert F Kennedy Jr, CNN reported.
However, the platform will allow content about vaccine policies, new trials and successes or failures of the vaccines. It will also let users to put personal testimonials if they do not breach the guidelines and the “channel doesn't show a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy”.
In the past few months, social media companies have come under fire from lawmakers and regulators for promoting misinformation about vaccines.
In July, US President Joe Biden said social media firms were partially accountable for spreading vaccine misinformation and said they should accelerate efforts to resolve the matter.