Over the last decade, social media giants have come under a lot of pressure from politicians and the public for allowing misinformation to run wild. Facebook and Google have been particularly criticized for what their algorithms promote, which can drive users to truly bonkers content. Now, COVID has finally pushed Google to make one big change: anti-vax conspiracy theories are now banned on YouTube.
In a news post laying out their reasoning, they say they’ve been convinced that their commitment to an open platform needs to be balanced against content that literally kills people. Here’s what’s now prohibited:
“Specifically, content that falsely alleges that approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects, claims that vaccines do not reduce transmission or contraction of disease, or contains misinformation on the substances contained in vaccines will be removed. This would include content that falsely says that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility, or that substances in vaccines can track those who receive them. Our policies not only cover specific routine immunizations like for measles or Hepatitis B, but also apply to general statements about vaccines.”
This is a welcome move, especially as the CDC reports that we’re now undergoing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”. 25% of Americans have not received a single shot and those in this group now comprise 99% of COVID deaths. These tend to be Republican voters and even conservative media is now sounding the alarm that them dying en masse may swing some counties towards Democratic candidates.
But there are a couple of caveats. YouTube is going to permit videos that discuss vaccine research, new vaccine trials, and the successes or failures of past vaccination programs. In addition, users will be free to discuss their own experiences with vaccination, so long as they don’t tip into conspiracy theory.
That line will inevitably be decided by individual moderators, though YouTube says they’ll examine whether a channel has a history of promoting misinformation before taking action.
On the whole, this is a positive move, though with anti-vax now transforming into a straight-up death cult YouTube‘s move may be too little, too late.