YouTube cracks down on anti-vaccine content, removes popular channels

YouTube announced Wednesday the strengthening of its anti-vaccine content policy and has removed several channels of American personalities “antivax” very followed.

“Content that falsely claims that approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects, that claims vaccines do not reduce disease transmission or contracting diseases, or that contains incorrect information about the substances contained in vaccines will be deleted, ”the platform said in a statement.

“This includes content that falsely claims that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility, or that substances in vaccines can track who receives them,” the company, a Google subsidiary, continues. .

Misleading or deceptive videos about routine vaccinations such as measles or hepatitis B may be removed from the site. “General vaccine statements” may also be deleted.

On the other hand, “content on vaccination policies, new vaccine trials and historical successes or failures of vaccines” remain authorized, as do personal testimonials on vaccination as long as they comply with the platform’s regulations.

In fact, a YouTube spokesperson confirmed to AFP that the platform would remove the channels of several anti-vaccine activists, including that of osteopath and entrepreneur Joseph Mercola, presented at the end of July by the New York Times, as “the most influential disseminator of false information on the coronavirus in line “.

Of “censorship”, according to those concerned

On Wednesday, a search carried out on YouTube no longer showed Joseph Mercola’s channel or any content posted directly by the one who presents himself as a promoter of alternative medicine. According to the specialized site Social Blade, the Mercola channel had, before its deletion, more than 400,000 subscribers and its videos had been viewed more than 100 million times.

Mr. Mercola called the decision “censorship” on Twitter and included it as part of an “attack on our freedoms and civil rights”.

YouTube has also confirmed its intention to remove from the platform the channels of Erin Elizabeth, another anti-vaccine activist, as well as that of Robert Kennedy Jr, son of the former minister assassinated in 1968. Head of the organization Children’s Health Defense , whose channel has been deleted, Robert Kennedy Jr has made a film to encourage African Americans to be wary of vaccines.

For Erin Elizabeth, “it’s a witch hunt,” she posted on Twitter Wednesday.

Other personalities in the “antivax” community whose channel has disappeared from YouTube include Sherri Tenpenny, an osteopath from Ohio also considered one of the most influential sources of COVID-19 disinformation on the Internet. .

YouTube is already applying measures to fight disinformation around COVID-19 vaccines, claiming to have deleted more than 130,000 videos in the past year that violated its regulations in this area.

Among its most recent measures, the platform on Tuesday suspended the German accounts of the Russian public television channel RT for violating the internal rules of the community by broadcasting “false information” on COVID-19 and for wanting to bypass a suspension download.

Moscow threatened to block YouTube in retaliation, accusing the group of censorship.

The large American technology groups are facing strong pressure to remove or moderate the anti-vaccine content that has proliferated on their platforms, especially since the start of the pandemic.

In mid-September, Facebook presented a new tool for the fight against conspiratorial or violent groups, targeting primarily the German movement Querdenken (“Anti-conformist”, in French), which combines health measures against the COVID-19 pandemic with deprivation of unconstitutional freedom.

Twitter also has a regulation on this subject and claims the right to remove content and to crack down in case of infringement.

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