YouTube has removed the accounts belonging to several prominent vaccine skeptics, including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., amid criticism that the platform hasn’t done enough to mitigate such content and that it’s contributing to less-than-ideal COVID-19 vaccination rates in the United States.
This week, The Washington Post reported that the new policies aimed at reducing “anti-vaccine” content ban any videos that contradict claims made by health authorities as to the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
“We’ll remove claims that vaccines are dangerous or cause a lot of health effects, that vaccines cause autism, cancer, infertility or contain microchips,” YouTube’s vice president for global trust and safety, Mark Halprin, told the Post.
The Google-owned platform has “hundreds” of moderators working to combat medical misinformation, he also said.
The policy applies to all languages that YouTube operates in.
Citing the CDC, the Post emphasizes that “More than a third of the world’s population has been vaccinated and the vaccines have been proved to be overwhelmingly safe” and that “All of the government-approved coronavirus vaccines have gone through rigorous testing and have been scientifically proved to be highly effective and safe.”
YouTube has had policies against what it has characterized as coronavirus misinformation in place since the start of the pandemic, including policies banning content that contradicted claims made by health officials as to the origin or behavior of the virus.
But, along with Facebook and Twitter, the platform has been criticized for not doing enough to stop the flow of such false or controversial claims.
Or, as the Post puts it, “for contributing to social ills — including vaccine skepticism.” So “YouTube is again changing policies that it has held onto for months.”
Mercola and Kennedy are two of the most prominent vaccine critics in the nation, yet up until YouTube unveiled its new policies, remained on YouTube throughout the pandemic.
The Post notes that they remain active on Twitter as well. Mercola, when contacted by the newspaper for comment, reportedly claimed “without presenting evidence” that vaccines had “killed many people” (which was not a direct quote), while Kennedy, for his part, noted that “There is no instance in history when censorship and secrecy has advanced either democracy or public health.”
According to “experts,” the Post notes, the two are “partially responsible for helping seed the skepticism that’s contributed to slowing vaccination rates across the country,” although the basis of this statement is unclear.
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