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YouTube bans false vaccine claims to fight misinformation

YouTube's ban on vaccine misinformation extends to all approved immunizations, not just the COVID-19 vaccine.

WASHINGTON — YouTube announced on Wednesday that it is banning anti-vaccine misinformation and vaccine conspiracy theories on the video-sharing platform. 

The company is immediately banning videos that falsely allege approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects, as well as claims that vaccines don't reduce transmission or contraction of a disease. 

As part of the update, YouTube swiftly removed multiple accounts for some of the highest-profile anti-vaccine activists including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Joseph Mercola.

"Today, we're expanding our medical misinformation policies on YouTube with new guidelines on currently administered vaccines that are approved and confirmed to be safe and effective by local health authorities and the WHO," a statement from the company explained. 

The company noted it's previously had policies in place to remove content that promotes "harmful remedies, such as saying drinking turpentine can cure diseases." YouTube said it is now working to "expand the work we started with COVID-19 to other vaccines."

YouTube reported that since 2020 it has removed more than 130,000 videos that violated its COVID-19 vaccine policies.

YouTube's new rules will prohibit misinformation about any vaccine that has been approved by health authorities, such as the World Health Organization, and are currently being administered.  

The Washington Post reported that the effects of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media has contributed to skepticism of the approved methods of prevention of serious illness. It was noted that rates of vaccinations in the United States have reduced, and as for the COVID-19 inoculation, the U.S. stands at about 56% fully vaccinated, while neighboring Canada stands at a much higher 74% and the number is at about 67% in the United Kingdom. 

“We’ve steadily seen false claims about the coronavirus vaccines spill over into misinformation about vaccines in general, and we’re now at a point where it’s more important than ever to expand the work we started with COVID-19 to other vaccines,” YouTube said in a prepared statement.

Claims about vaccines that are being tested will still be allowed. Personal stories about reactions to the vaccine will also be permitted, as long as they do not come from an account that has a history of promoting vaccine misinformation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.