YouTube announced on Friday that going forward, it would prevent channels that promote anti-vaccination content from running ads, also known as ‘demonetising’ them.
The decision was announced after several advertisers began pulling their ads from videos with anti-vax content following inquiries from Buzzfeed News.
In a statement emailed to Buzzfeed News, a YouTube spokesperson said:
“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.”
Last week, we reported that Facebook was looking at instructing its algorithms to stop recommending anti-vax groups to users following a measles outbreak in Washington. This was partially prompted by a letter sent by Congressman Adam B. Schiff, that expressed concern that the Facebook and Instagram algorithms were “surfacing and recommending messages that discourage parents from vaccinating their children”.
Google has already put in place some measures to prevent misinformation from surfacing in search results, including adjusting the way videos are recommended on YouTube so that videos with medical misinformation will no longer be recommended to users.
Demonetisation is a much more significant step, however. It essentially removes all financial incentives for the user to continue creating and sharing anti-vaccination content on YouTube.
In addition to demonetisation, YouTube has also introduced an information panel related to vaccines. According to Buzzfeed News:
“A large number of anti-vax videos have an information panel that links to the Wikipedia page for “vaccine hesitancy”, where it is described as “one of the top ten global health threats of 2019″ according the World Health Organization.”
It’s not clear whether these changes have been implemented worldwide, however. While Buzzfeed News provides screenshots of the new information panels, YouTube doesn’t show them underneath the anti-vax videos I’ve viewed in Australia.
Still, it’s a good step to fighting the rising tide of unregulated misinformation available online, and hopefully other tech giants follow in Google’s footsteps soon.