YouTube has announced an expansion of its “medical misinformation” censorship policies that are going into effect immediately.
In the announcement, the platform said, “YouTube needs a policy framework that holds up in the long term, and preserves the important balance of removing egregiously harmful content while ensuring space for debate and discussion.”
The Big Tech giant admitted, “specific medical guidance can change over time as we learn more,” but said “when it comes to areas of well-studied scientific consensus, YouTube is not a platform for distributing information that could harm people.”
“Moving forward, YouTube will streamline dozens of our existing medical misinformation guidelines to fall under three categories – Prevention, Treatment, and Denial,” the announcement said. “These policies will apply to specific health conditions, treatments, and substances where content contradicts local health authorities or the World Health Organization (WHO).”
The framework for the new censorship policy was listed as follows:
Prevention misinformation: We will remove content that contradicts health authority guidance on the prevention and transmission of specific health conditions, and on the safety and efficacy of approved vaccines. For example, this encompasses content that promotes a harmful substance for disease prevention.
Treatment misinformation: We will remove content that contradicts health authority guidance on treatments for specific health conditions, including promoting specific harmful substances or practices. Examples include content that encourages unproven remedies in place of seeking medical attention for specific conditions, like promoting caesium chloride as a treatment for cancer.
Denial misinformation: We will remove content that disputes the existence of specific health conditions. This covers content that denies people have died from COVID-19.
A large portion of the announcement was focused on YouTube’s plan to crack down on “cancer treatment misinformation.”
“Starting today and ramping up in the coming weeks, we will begin removing content that promotes cancer treatments proven to be harmful or ineffective, or content that discourages viewers from seeking professional medical treatment,” the announcement states. “This includes content that promotes unproven treatments in place of approved care or as a guaranteed cure, and treatments that have been specifically deemed harmful by health authorities. For instance, a video that claims ‘garlic cures cancer,’ or ‘take vitamin C instead of radiation therapy’ would be removed.”
Instead of allowing discussion of alternative or holistic treatments, YouTube said that it is publishing a playlist of “engaging, informative cancer-related videos from a range of authoritative sources” and partnering with the Mayo Clinic.
The platform said that it may make exceptions for content that is deemed to be in the “public interest,” providing the example of “a video of a public hearing or comments made by national political candidates on the campaign trail that disputes health authority guidance.”
YouTube is currently being sued by Robert Kennedy Jr., a Democrat presidential candidate, for censoring his campaign.
Kennedy has long been an outspoken critic of vaccines, predating COVID-19.
“Mr. Kennedy often speaks at length about topics people would like to ignore, including the negative health effects of toxic chemicals and potential safety concerns about the COVID-19 shots (as well as other vaccines that have been developed since Congress gave the pharmaceutical industry immunity from product liability claims),” the lawsuit says.
“YouTube often removes videos of Mr. Kennedy’s comments from its public platform. It usually relies on its ‘medical misinformation’ policies to justify the action,” Kennedy’s lawsuit continues. “It has relied on the policies several times to censor interviews and speeches given by Mr. Kennedy during the 2024 presidential campaign, including a speech he gave at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, the state that hosts America’s first primary. On information and belief, it did so based on statements from the Biden administration about what information to censor. It will continue to do so throughout the presidential campaign, especially as the primary elections get closer.”
Federal Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins has set an emergency hearing on Kennedy’s request for a temporary restraining order barring YouTube from censoring his speech for Wednesday, August 16.