YouTube Bans Videos Linking Autism, Vaccines

by Shaun Heasley, Disability Scoop | September 30, 2021

YouTube is working to eliminate videos from its platform that push misinformation about vaccines. (Dreamstime/TNS)

YouTube is cracking down on vaccine misinformation, saying that it will remove videos suggesting that vaccines cause autism, among other falsehoods.

The video platform, which is owned by Google, said this week that it is updating and expanding its policies addressing harmful vaccine content.

YouTube already barred content containing inaccurate information about COVID-19 vaccines and the company said 130,000 videos have been removed since last year for violating that policy. But inaccurate ideas about other types of vaccines had been allowed to proliferate on the platform.

Now YouTube has decided that the policy on COVID-19 vaccines didn’t go far enough.

“We’ve steadily seen false claims about the coronavirus vaccines spill over into misinformation about vaccines in general, and we’re now at a point where it’s more important than ever to expand the work we started with COVID-19 to other vaccines,” reads a blog post from YouTube announcing the policy change.

“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,” the post says.

The policy applies to statements about specific vaccines like the ones for measles or hepatitis B, the company said, as well as comments about vaccines generally.

YouTube indicated that it will still allow content talking about vaccine policies, trials as well as historical successes and failures. Personal testimonies are also permitted as long as they don’t violate the site’s guidelines or come as part of a channel with a pattern of pushing vaccine hesitancy, the company indicated.

The change at YouTube comes after Facebook took a harsher stance on vaccine misinformation earlier this year. The social network said that for the duration of the pandemic it will take down postings with debunked claims about the coronavirus and vaccines including those suggesting that “vaccines are toxic, dangerous or cause autism” on both Facebook and Instagram. Groups, pages or accounts can be removed under the policy if they repeatedly share this type of misinformation.

YouTube said the new policies will take effect immediately, but it will take time for them to be fully enforced.

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