YouTube announces new policies to curb health misinformation

Aug 16, 2023, 8:23 AM UTC
3 mins read
YouTube announces new policies to curb health misinformation

YouTube yesterday unveiled a comprehensive and long-term strategy aimed at addressing the proliferation of health misinformation videos, particularly those related to cancer. As an invaluable resource with multifaceted offerings, the internet has increasingly become a conduit for not only delectable recipes and cutting-edge technological deals but also regrettable inaccuracies. Addressing this concern, YouTube is decisively taking action to counteract the dissemination of medical misinformation, thereby underscoring its commitment to public health and responsible content sharing.

Guided by a meticulous framework, YouTube’s enhanced guidelines for health-related content are organized into three distinct categories: Prevent, Treatment, and Denial Misinformation. The “Prevent” facet of this approach entails rigorous scrutiny and the subsequent removal of videos that contravene established guidelines endorsed by reputable authorities or promote notions inconsistent with vaccine safety and efficacy. This initiative reflects a continuation of the platform’s stance on vaccine misinformation, which culminated in the prohibition of such content in 2021.

Under the “Treatment” category, YouTube will proactively address the dissemination of inaccurate information concerning the management of medical conditions, including unsubstantiated remedies. This directive underscores the platform’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding its users against unverified health advice, while also fostering an environment conducive to accurate medical information dissemination.

Conversely, the “Denial” component of this approach is geared towards curtailing the dissemination of content perpetuating false claims, such as those that deny the impact of COVID-19. This discerning stance aligns with YouTube’s dedication to facilitating accurate and responsible discourse surrounding critical public health matters.

Articulating the rationale behind these initiatives, Dr. Garth Graham, YouTube’s Director and Global Head of Healthcare and Public Health Partnerships, and Matt Halprin, the platform’s VP and Global Head of Trust and Safety, elucidated, “To ascertain the eligibility of a medical condition, treatment, or substance under our medical misinformation policies, we will assess its association with significant public health risks, its alignment with guidance from global health authorities, and its susceptibility to misinformation.” This collaborative statement by the two executives provides a clear and comprehensive overview of the foundational principles guiding this policy overhaul.

Effective immediately, YouTube has initiated measures to expunge videos contravening the outlined policies, with a heightened commitment to enforcement in the upcoming weeks. As a practical example, content proclaiming unfounded curative properties of items like garlic in relation to cancer will be expeditiously removed. In tandem with this proactive removal strategy, YouTube is proactively curating a playlist of scientifically substantiated cancer-related videos. Furthermore, the platform has established a partnership with the prestigious Mayo Clinic, aimed at producing informative videos that demystify cancer and foster informed discussions.

These progressive policy updates follow a recent decision by YouTube to permit certain content containing false claims about past US Presidential elections, a measure tailored to preserve political discourse. It is important to note that while YouTube acknowledges certain exceptions for health-related videos featuring falsehoods, these exceptions will be granted with prudence and subject to context, especially in instances of public interest. In certain cases, such content may be retained on the platform but accompanied by an age restriction.

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