World’s largest video-sharing platform presses ejection of superspreaders of false vaccine information

YouTube is cracking down on vaccination misinformation. On Wednesday, the company announced its ban on any content spreading misinformation about vaccines, starting with banning the accounts of several well-known anti-vaxxers.

“It’s a big deal and a technical difficulty to try to manage because YouTube hosts literally billions of hours of video,” said Chris Jenkins, chief digital officer at agency Symphony.

In a blog post on Wednesday, YouTube announced the ban, writing, “We have steadily seen false claims about coronavirus vaccines escalate into misinformation about vaccines in general, and we are now at a point where it is more important than ever to expand the work we started with COVID-19 to other vaccines.”

Jenkins said it won’t be easy to decipher exactly what is misinformation and what isn’t for all vaccines.

“With a system of this size, it will never be human-powered. Everything is driven by algorithms. This system can be slow, arbitrary and capricious simply because of the amount of content on it,” said explained Jenkins.

“It’s really a small handful of people who can have a disproportionate impact on the marketplace of ideas that power these platforms, trying to take action against that,” Jenkins said.

READ Urgent CDC advisory ‘strongly recommends’ pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19

In July, the White House named 12 well-known anti-vaxxers, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., saying they accounted for more than 65% of anti-vax disinformation spread on social media. Since Wednesday, all have been banned from YouTube.

“No big business makes decisions purely by virtue of its own. It’s true. It all depends on whether or not it affects the profit margin and whether it adds more revenue,” Jenkins said.

That’s why some argue that this is a decision that may not change much and that we will have to see unfold.

“People who really prefer disinformation content tend to be in the minority, these platforms look at the public at large and go, OK, we have to broadcast on the fact-checking side, because the majority of our audience wants us to do it,” Jenkins said.

The ban takes effect immediately, but the company warns that the widespread removal of videos may take some time as it works to enforce the policy.

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Shirley K. Rosa