The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused a spike in misinformation, rumors, and conspiracy theories around the internet. Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and others are doing their part to curb the spread of misinformation and now YouTube is taking action against the tin foil hat army as well.
YouTube has started removing and banning conspiracy theory videos on its platform relating to COVID-19. The move came after an interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke was live-streamed to YouTube where he outright linked 5G to the pandemic.
Linking 5G to COVID-19 has already caused significant harm in the UK where notable cellular infrastructure was damaged and workers were abused. As a response, the UK government stepped in and requested social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter to put a stop to fake news.
It is worth mentioning that YouTube is not changing its policies regarding potentially harmful content on its platform and is simply doubling down on its pre-existing policies. In fact, some videos have not been completely banned or removed but are only demonetized or labeled as “borderline” content.
YouTube’s algorithm will not be suggesting these videos and will make them harder to find to prevent them from spreading. The official statement from YouTube says:
Any content that disputes the existence or transmission of COVID-19, as described by the WHO [World Health Organization] and local health authorities is in violation of YouTube policies.
This includes conspiracy theories which claim that the symptoms are caused by 5G. For borderline content that could misinform users in harmful ways, we reduce recommendations. We’ll continue to evaluate the impact of these videos on communities around the world.