Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation on the internet, social, and regular media regarding the virus and vaccines for it have been rampant. Twitter and Facebook claim to be active in stopping the flow of hysterics and pseudoscience, but YouTube is a particularly troubling place where such misinformation campaigns have lingered. To that end, Google and YouTube have announced intention to ramp up the stamping out and scrubbing its platform of anti-vaccine videos.
This announcement came from a YouTube Team blog post published on the company website on September 29, 2021. According to the post, YouTube claimed it would be taking a firmer stance on removing vaccine misinformation videos across the board, not just on the topic of COVID-19.
“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 post states.
YouTube claims to have removed over 130,000 videos relating to COVID-19 misinformation in the last year. The platform took a stance in particular to COVID in late 2020 and has attempted to police content on the matter since, but this new action goes beyond COVID to all medically approved vaccines. Anti-vaccine campaigners such as Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are among those who will have content removed for promoting claims like vaccines causing autism, cancer or infertility, or that the vaccines contain tracking devices.
Earlier this year, CEOs of Twitter, Facebook, and Google (who owns YouTube) were called to Capital Hill to testify on the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. Politicians up to and including President Joe Biden have been critical of social media and video platforms for allowing those misinformation campaigns to exist at all. Arguably, if there had been a firmer stance on education and limiting of misinformation, many areas of the country might not still be suffering for intense resurgences of the virus.
Nonetheless, as the COVID-19 vaccines roll out and many take steps to protect themselves, YouTube taking accountability to expand its banning to all vaccine misinformation sounds like a “better late than never” situation. Stay tuned as we continue to follow this story for further updates.