YouTube announced this Friday that it will be demonetizing channels run by anti-vaccine personalities and organizations, saying that such content is in violation of its policies that prohibit “dangerous and harmful” material, BuzzFeed News reports.
“We have strict policies that govern what videos we allow ads to appear on, and videos that promote anti-vaccination content are a violation of those policies. We enforce these policies vigorously, and if we find a video that violates them, we immediately take action and remove ads,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
The news comes in the wake of a BuzzFeed report earlier this week that said YouTube promoted anti-vax videos when people searched for terms such as “are vaccines safe.” According to BuzzFeed, the search inquiry would first yield results from credible sources, but were then followed up by suggestions pointing the searcher to anti-vax content.
Advertisers contacted by BuzzFeed say they were unaware that their ads were showing up on anti-vax content.
The news comes as measles outbreaks flare up across the country. Late last month, the state of Washington declared a state of emergency after a measles outbreak that has so far infected over 35 people. The areas affected by the outbreak were known to be anti-vaccination “hot spots.” This fall, New York faced its most severe measles outbreak in decades, which was centered in the state’s ultra-orthodox Jewish communities.
As The Washington Post reported in 2017, anti-vaccine groups gained entry to a Minnesota Somali community after parents researching autism came across their websites. Soon after, healthcare providers started seeing vaccination rates drop, which led to a measles outbreak that infected 41 people.
As BuzzFeed points out, last week U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) called on social media and streaming platforms to clamp down on the spread of medical misinformation. Facebook responded saying that it would take steps to “reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook.”
From BuzzFeed News:
Prior to Schiff’s request, YouTube said it was working on algorithmic changes to reduce the appearance of conspiracy theories in its Up Next recommendations, a category that contains some anti-vax videos, but not all. After BuzzFeed News’ report earlier this week, YouTube said, “like many algorithmic changes,” the alterations to its Up Next recommendation system “will be gradual and will get more and more accurate over time.”
In January, the World Health Organization (WHO), declared that people who reject the science and efficacy of vaccines are among the top 10 health threats facing the world in the coming year.
Featured image: Mike Adams, the “Health Ranger,” via VAXXED TV