The Google-owned platform had already begun to crack down late last year on false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine; by the end of August, it had removed over 1 million videos for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. The new, broader ban also includes content that falsely claims that other approved vaccines, like those for the flu, measles and Hepatitis B, are dangerous or ineffective.
The company also terminated the accounts of several prominent anti-vaccine influencers, including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., citing “the need to remove egregious harmful content.” In a statement, Kennedy pushed back, telling CNN Business that “there is no instance in history when censorship has been beneficial for either democracy or public health.”
“It has been incredibly frustrating to try and share good, science-based information about vaccines on YouTube, only to have the algorithms then suggest anti-vaccine content to our viewers,” Erica DeWald of Vaccinate Your Family, the nation’s largest nonprofit group dedicated to advocating for vaccines, told NBC News about the new guidelines. “We’re hopeful this is a positive step toward ensuring people have access to real information about vaccines and will signal other social media companies to follow suit.”
Still, YouTube said that there will be some exceptions to the new guidelines, such as videos that include personal testimonies or videos about vaccine trials, results and failures. “Given the importance of public discussion and debate to the scientific process, we will continue to allow content about vaccine policies, new vaccine trials, and historical vaccine successes or failures on YouTube,” the company explain in its blog post.