YouTube said will remove videos that contain misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, in an expansion of its existing rules about conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the pandemic, the Verge reported. Any vaccine-related content that contradicts information from “local health authorities” or the World Health Organisation is now prohibited.
“A COVID-19 vaccine may be imminent, therefore we’re ensuring we have the right policies in place to be able to remove misinformation related to a COVID-19 vaccine,” Farshad Shadloo, a YouTube spokesman, told the Verge in an email. This will include claims that the vaccine will kill people or cause infertility, that it will cause autism, or that microchips will be implanted in people who are vaccinated.
The microchips conspiracy theory promotes the false idea that Bill Gates, at the forefront of the COVID-19 vaccine race, will install microchips into every vaccinated person. It surfaced after Gates in March said in an interview that eventually “we will have some digital certificates” which would be used to show which people had received a vaccine.
Under its COVID-19 misinformation policy, YouTube — which has been responsible for pulling people down rabbit holes of conspiracies — already prohibits content that claims that a guaranteed vaccine or cure for COVID-19 is available, that the COVID-19 vaccine will kill people who receive it. Conspiracy theories around COVID-19, including that 5G causes or eating Asain food causes it, is also prohibited.
Outside of vaccine misinformation, YouTube had earlier this year prohibited content that sheds doubt over the existence and transmission of COVID-19, or encourages people to rely on home remedies and not seek medical treatment, or explicitly disputes official guidelines on isolation and social distancing. It also claims that a group is immune or cannot transmit the virus.
Facebook has meanwhile banned any ads that “explicitly” discourage from getting vaccinated, but has remained silent on anti-vax conspiracies or content that spread rumours about vaccines. Besides, ads around legislation or government policies for or against vaccines, including for COVID-19, will still be allowed.