Google’s YouTube yesterday said it was banning anti-vaccine videos
as part of an effort to stop the
spread of medical misinformation online. The crackdown is another reminder for publishers to tout their media products as brand-safe environments for advertising.
The video-sharing site
also is removing channels belonging to prominent anti-vaccine advocacy groups, such as the Children's Health Defense Fund, founded by activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The group also has campaigned against public health programs,
including the fluoridation of drinking water.
Kennedy was among 12 people the Center for Countering Digital Hate
had labeled as
the “disinformation dozen” for spreading falsehoods about vaccine safety. The nonprofit group, which last year urged advertisers to boycott Facebook for its lax policies on hate speech,
urged online platforms to curtail anti-vaxxer content.
YouTube’s ban on anti-vaxxer videos goes beyond its earlier policies to curb misinformation about COVID-19
vaccines. It will remove any videos making false claims that approved vaccines cause cancer, infertility or autism, according to a blog post.
There is greater urgency to YouTube’s stricter rules
on health misinformation as the weather gets colder. Last year, COVID-19
cases started to surge in October as people spent more time indoors, increasing the likelihood of spreading the respiratory disease. Studies have shown that vaccinations reduce the risk of infection
and hospitalization from COVID-19.
YouTube’s move also comes as major advertising agencies like IPG Mediabrands recommend brands shift their media spending toward
platforms that implement effective steps to stop misinformation, as reported by Digital News Daily
. As social media platforms that depend on
user-generated content continue to struggle with policing online falsehoods, publishers with curated content can argue they provide better context for advertising.