YouTube is cracking down on misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccines, announcing a ban on videos that include claims about coronavirus vaccinations that contradict information from health authorities.
Specifically, the video giant said it will remove any videos claiming COVID vaccines will kill people, cause infertility, or “involve microchips being implanted in people who receive the treatment” — the latter being a bizarre conspiracy theory that has flared up on the internet this year.
“A COVID-19 vaccine may be imminent; therefore, we’re ensuring we have the right policies in place to be able to remove misinformation related to a COVID-19 vaccine,” a YouTube rep said in a statement. The Google-owned platform said it will rely on consensus expert information about COVID vaccines from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local health authorities around the world.
YouTube already has had a policy in place to pull down content promoting medically unproven treatments for coronavirus and other misinformation about the disease. Since February, according to YouTube, it has removed more than 200,000 videos spreading dangerous or misleading COVID-19 information. That includes content that disputes the existence of COVID-19, discourages people from seeking medical treatment for the disease, and videos explicitly denying the efficacy of social distancing and self-isolation recommendations from health authorities that may lead people to act against those guidelines.
YouTube’s move comes a day after Facebook said it banned anti-vaccine ads globally. The social media company said it will reject any ads “that discourage people from getting a vaccine” of any kind, including seasonal flu shots. In addition, Facebook said it was launching a new flu vaccine information campaign, which will include steering users to additional vaccine-related content.
While it’s banning misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, YouTube said it will still allow videos that provide a broader discussion about issues and concerns about the safety of such vaccines.
Last year, after critics targeted YouTube for facilitating the spread of anti-vax conspiracy theories, the video platform announced that it would no longer serve ads on YouTube channels promoting anti-vaccination rhetoric.