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YouTube announces new ban on vaccine misinformation

Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

In an effort to manage "harmful content" on its platform, YouTube announced Wednesday new restrictions on videos that are critical of vaccines.

"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," the company said in a blog post.

YouTube will ban any video that "falsely alleges that approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects, claims that vaccines do not reduce transmission or contraction of disease, or contains misinformation on the substances contained in vaccines."

Videos claiming that vaccines cause autism, cancer, or infertility will no longer be permitted on YouTube's platform. Likewise, content that alleges substances in the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization or government health authorities "can track those who receive them" is now banned.

"As with our COVID guidelines, we consulted with local and international health organizations and experts in developing these policies," the company said. "For example, our new guidance on vaccine side effects maps to public vaccine resources provided by health authorities and backed by medical consensus."

The new policy went into immediate effect Wednesday. According to CBS News, several popular anti-vaccine channels, including one run by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., were banned after the company's announcement.

The policy change comes as the United States and other countries are implementing mandatory COVID-19 vaccine requirements to force vaccine-hesitant individuals to get their shots. The mandates are highly controversial in the U.S., where President Joe Biden ordered businesses with 100 or more employees to have their workers vaccinated or tested for COVID weekly by executive fiat.

"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.

The new rules will apply to claims about vaccines in general as well as statements about specific vaccines, such as the common immunizations for measles or Hepatitis B.

There are limited exceptions to the guidelines. Content about vaccine policies, new vaccine trials, and historical examples of vaccine successes or failures is still allowed on YouTube.

"Personal testimonials relating to vaccines will also be allowed, so long as the video doesn't violate other Community Guidelines, or the channel doesn't show a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy," YouTube said.

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