YouTube updates medical policies to fight myths about cancer, COVID, and vaccines

Over the years, YouTube has come to recognize that it’s important to allow medical content to help others. Nudity, gore, and other things that aren’t allowed in normal content are permitted in medical videos as long as they serve to educate the audience. But the rise of medical misinformation, including inaccurate advice on COVID-19, vaccines, and reproductive health, has led YouTube to take action against medical misinformation just like it did for misleading election information.

As announced by YouTube, a comprehensive update to its medical misinformation policies aims to address the spread of inaccurate health-related content. On top of warding against regular misleading medical advice, this update will also aim to eliminate cancer treatment misinformation. As part of the policy update, YouTube is promoting high-quality health content to help direct users to more accurate information. In other words, YouTube is promoting accurate content and removing myth-based content.

YouTube’s medical content will see more scrutiny

YouTube’s new approach is centered around three categories of misinformation: Prevention, Treatment, and Denial. Policies in each category will apply to health conditions, treatments, and substances that contradict the guidance of local health authorities or the World Health Organization.

Prevention misinformation means content that contradicts health authority advice on disease prevention and transmission, including misinformation about vaccines. Treatment misinformation involves things like harmful substances or practices that contradict health authority guidance on the treatment of specific health conditions. Denial misinformation is content that denies the existence of specific health conditions, like COVID-19.

The spotlight of this update is on tackling cancer treatment misinformation. YouTube says that cancer has a global prevalence and is prone to misinformation, so the company will remove content that promotes harmful or ineffective cancer treatments. In this category are claims such as garlic curing cancer or vitamin C replacing radiation therapy. To educate about various cancer conditions, a playlist of informative cancer-related videos from authoritative sources will be published, and a collaboration with Mayo Clinic is underway to produce new videos.

YouTube will make exceptions for content that provides educational information about cancer treatments, such as videos from accredited medical schools or hospitals, ones discussing the results of a specific medical study on cancer treatments, and content with personal testimonies from people who have been treated for cancer. However, these exceptions are not guaranteed, and YouTube can still remove videos that it deems to be harmful or misleading, even if they fall into one of these categories.

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