Barbara A. Rath
YouTube removed advertising on channels that promoted anti-vaccine content, and the video sharing service announced that they would prevent future advertising on any videos that endorse those views.
Buzzfeed News first reported the company’s effort to demonetize the videos. According to YouTube’s guidelines, content that promotes harmful or dangerous acts that could result in serious physical injury is not eligible for advertising.
“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,” a YouTube spokesperson told Infectious Diseases in Children. “We enforce these policies vigorously, and if we find a video that violates them, we immediately take action and remove ads.”
In January 2018, the company created stricter criteria for which videos could be monetized. Previously, channels with 10,000 views could receive monetary support from advertising. Now, only channels with 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months can do so.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that Pinterest has blocked searches for vaccine-related content in an effort to reduce the spread of misinformation.
“Pinterest and now YouTube are finally taking responsibility for their content,” Infectious Diseases in Children Editorial Board member Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center and attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in an interview. “No longer is it considered reasonable to provide misleading information that causes parents to make bad decisions that put their children in harm’s way. One can only hope that Facebook will soon follow.”
Barbara A. Rath, MD, PhD, co-founder and chair of the Vienna Vaccine Safety Initiative, told Infectious Diseases in Children that interactive social media sites such as YouTube can be helpful in explaining the benefits of vaccination. She added that organizations like hers, along with journalists, have worked to translate scientific evidence for the public, but physicians need to be more approachable and willing to engage in discussions “without prejudice, but with the necessary time and training to listen actively while addressing concerns individually.”
“As a physician, I welcome the fact that information is much more accessible and less ‘elitist’ than it used to be in the past,” she said. “The problem for the user is to discriminate accurate from factually false information. As a scientist, I know how long it takes to learn to really understand and critique a scientific publication. It is our job to bridge that gap.” – by Katherine Bortz
YouTube Help: Advertiser-friendly content guidelines. https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6162278?hl=en. Accessed February 25, 2019.
Disclosures: Offit and Rath report no relevant financial disclosures.