YouTube is erasing vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories from its popular video-sharing platform.
The ban on vaccine misinformation, announced in a blog post on Wednesday, comes as countries around the world continue to offer free vaccinations for COVID-19 to a somewhat hesitant public. Public health officials have struggled to push back against a constant flow of misinformation online about the COVID-19 shot since the vaccine was first developed last year.
YouTube’s new rules will prohibit misinformation about any vaccine that has been approved by health authorities such as the World Health Organization and is currently being administered. The platform started cracking down on false claims of a COVID-19 vaccine late last year.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, will remove videos that falsely claim that vaccines are dangerous or cause health issues such as cancer, infertility or autism – a theory that scientists have refuted for decades but tolerated on the Internet. As of Wednesday, the popular anti-vaccine accounts run by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had been removed from YouTube.
“We have consistently seen false claims about coronavirus vaccines spread in misinformation about vaccines in general, and we are now at a point where we have expanded the work we started with COVID-19 to other vaccines. This is more important than ever,” YouTube said in a prepared statement.
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The new rule will apply to general claims about vaccines as well as statements about specific vaccines, such as those given for measles or the flu.
Claims for the vaccines that are being tested will still be allowed. Personal stories about reactions to vaccines will also be allowed, as long as they do not come from an account that has a history of promoting vaccine misinformation.
Associated Press writer David Klepper in Providence, Rhode Island contributed to this report.