Youtube is cracking down on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and has announced a total ban on content falsely claiming that the vaccine is harmful or ineffective. Youtube has terminated the accounts of several prominent anti-vaccine influencers, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Joseph Mercola who have contributed to skepticism surrounding the vaccine and slowed vaccination rates in the United States. Since the ban, over 133,000 videos featuring coronavirus misinformation have been removed from the platform.
Youtube had existing policies on COVID-19 misinformation but this new ban had broadened its enforcement against content claiming the vaccine is dangerous or that vaccines are a cause of autism. The company announced, “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.”
Anti-vaccine advocates have been using platforms like Youtube and Facebook for over a decade. In the past both platforms haven been reluctant to censor content arguing it challenges users’ rights to free speech. Matt Halprin, YouTube’s vice president of global trust and safety stated, “Developing robust policies takes time. We wanted to launch a policy that is comprehensive, enforceable with consistency and adequately addresses the challenge.”