YouTube Clamps Down On Anti-Vax Videos

In a new crackdown on vaccine misinformation, YouTube Wednesday removed video channels of prominent vaccine critics, including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, who founded the group Children's Health Defense.

YouTube also is banning videos claiming vaccines cause harmful side effects -- such as cancer or diabetes -- as well as clips claiming vaccines don't work.

“YouTube doesn’t allow content that poses a serious risk of egregious harm by spreading medical misinformation about currently administered vaccines that are approved and confirmed to be safe and effective by local health authorities and by the World Health Organization,” the company stated. “This is limited to content that contradicts local health authorities’ or the WHO’s guidance on vaccine safety, efficacy, and ingredients.”



The new policy applies to all vaccines, including ones for COVID-19.

Earlier this year, the Center for Countering Digital Hate said in a report that a dozen anti-vaxxers -- including Kennedy -- were responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Twitter alone. That report also found that vaccine critics on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter reached more than 59 million social media users.

Facebook and Twitter have previously taken steps to limit the spread of anti-vaccine content. Google's YouTube also has cracked down on false information about COVID-19, but hadn't previously removed the channels of vaccine critics.

Kennedy blasted YouTube's move.

“Free speech is the essential core value of liberal democracy,” he stated. “There is no instance in history when censorship and secrecy have advanced either democracy or public health.”

His organization, Children's Health Defense, sued Facebook last year for allegedly violating its free speech rights by “censoring” its posts.

That group alleged Facebook deactivated a fund-raising tool Children's Health Defense used on the platform, and also prevented the group's ad agency from purchasing online ads. Facebook also allegedly demoted or banned content that Children's Health Defense posted to its page on the platform.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco dismissed the case earlier this year. She said in her ruling that private companies like Facebook don't violate the First Amendment by suppressing or banning users' posts, or by rejecting users' ads, because the First Amendment only prohibits the government from squelching speech based on its content.

The Children's Health Defense is appealing that decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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