YouTube announced Wednesday that it is banning several prominent anti-vaccine activists from its platform, including the accounts of Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in an attempt to remove any content that falsely claims that approved vaccines are dangerous.
In a blog post, YouTube said it was removing videos claiming vaccines do not reduce disease transmission or contraction, as well as content that contains misinformation about the content of the vaccines. Claims that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer, or infertility, or that the vaccines contain trackers are also removed.
The platform, which is owned by Google, has a similar ban on misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines. But the new policy extends the rules to include misleading claims about approved vaccines such as measles and hepatitis B, as well as falsehoods about vaccines in general, YouTube said. Personal testimony about vaccines, content about vaccine guidelines and new vaccine trials, and historical videos of vaccine successes or failures are permitted to remain on the website.
“Today’s policy update is an important step in addressing vaccine and health misinformation on our platform.
Misinformation researchers have for years pointed to the proliferation of anti-vaccine content on social networks as a factor in vaccine hesitation – including slowing the adoption of Covid-19 vaccines in more conservative states. Reports have shown that YouTube videos often serve as a source of content that then goes viral on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, sometimes generating tens of millions of views.
YouTube said it removed over 130,000 videos over the past year for violating its COVID-19 vaccine guidelines. However, this did not include what the video platform referred to as “borderline videos” discussing vaccine skepticism on the website. In the past, the company simply removed such videos from search results and recommendations while promoting videos from experts and public health institutions.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.