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YouTube bans high-profile anti-vaccine accounts, says it will block all vaccine misinformation

Anti-vaccine protesters stage a protest outside of the San Diego Unified School District office to protest a forced vaccination mandate for students on September 28, 2021 in San Diego, California.

Sandy Huffaker | Getty Images

Google-owned YouTube banned prominent anti-vaccine accounts in an effort to strengthen its policies on misinformation around vaccines, the company said in a blog post Wednesday. It will also ban misinformation on all vaccines that are confirmed to be safe by the World Health Organization and local health authorities.

Social media companies have said since the beginning of the pandemic that they’re trying to stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation. But falsehoods have continued to run rampant as companies struggle to police the constant flood of posts and uploads to their platforms.

As part of the crackdown, a YouTube spokesperson confirmed it removed pages associated with high-profile misinformation spreaders like Joseph Mercola, Erin Elizabeth, Sherri Tenpenny and the Children’s Health Defense Fund, which is associated with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Until now, YouTube banned videos that said the coronavirus vaccine was ineffective or dangerous. Under the new policy, it will block videos that spread misinformation about all commonly used vaccines, like the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

“We’ve steadily seen false claims about the coronavirus 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,” the company said.

But tackling misinformation can be like a game of whack-a-mole.

Moderators may remove a post or account only for it to pop back up later, as was the case with the “Plandemic” conspiracy video that went viral on Facebook and YouTube last year. YouTube said it has removed more than 130,000 videos for violating its Covid vaccine policies over the last year.

YouTube said there are exceptions to its new guidelines. The company will allow videos about vaccine policies, trials and historical vaccine successes or failures. It will also allow personal testimonials relating to vaccines, “so long as the video doesn’t violate other Community Guidelines, or the channel doesn’t show a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy.”

The Washington Post first reported on YouTube’s new policy.

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