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YouTube lowers the boom on anti-vaccine content and activists

September 29, 2021, 3:00 PM UTC
Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

YouTube is wielding the ban hammer on anti-vaccine content and against prominent anti-vaccine activists.

The site announced Wednesday it was expanding its medical misinformation policies to include new guidelines on vaccines – and would actively remove content that claims vaccines are dangerous or could cause other chronic health conditions, including autism, cancer or infertility, or that substances in vaccines can track those who receive them.

In the past year, YouTube says it has removed 130,000 videos for violations of its vaccine policies. But many videos have skirted the policy, by specifically not mentioning COVID-19. That prompted the company to make today’s expansion

“Crafting policy around medical misinformation comes charged with inherent challenges and tradeoffs,” said YouTube in a blog post. “Scientific understanding evolves as new research emerges, and firsthand, personal experience regularly plays a powerful role in online discourse. Vaccines in particular have been a source of fierce debate over the years, despite consistent guidance from health authorities about their effectiveness.”

YouTube, however, did say it would allow people to continue to discuss and debate vaccine policies, new vaccine trials, and historical vaccine successes or failures. Personal testimonies will also be allowed, as long as the don’t violate other community guidelines.

The new policies go into effect immediately, though YouTube warned it would take some time for the systems to catch up on enforcement.

YouTube joins Facebook, which has announced plans to ban accounts that repeatedly spread vaccine conspiracies, after facing strong criticism for initially leaving anti-vaccine posts up on the site. And Twitter, in March, announced a strike system for people who spread misinformation, with penalties ranging from no action (for the first offense) to a permanent suspension (after five strikes).

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