2020 proved that the internet can be a hive of misinformation especially when it came to the novel coronavirus and that battle isn’t over yet. In April 2021, a spokesperson from YouTube claimed that the online video platform would be deleting up to 30,000 videos containing misinformation about the vaccine.
Video content that contradicts the research of international bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) or health authorities will be taken down immediately. The drive to clamp down on vaccine misinformation began in October 2020. Last year, the platform removed more than 80,000 videos that contained poorly researched, medically unsubstantiated claims about both the vaccine and the nature of the novel virus too.
As the pandemic disrupted civil life and affected millions of Americans early last year, public anxieties about the novel virus began to play out in unsubstantiated content that crowded out factual research by authorized bodies. At the time, YouTube was rife with videos that touted non-existent cures to the virus or wild conspiracy theories. Later, as vaccines were developed to check the spread of the virus, content creators began to make tall claims about the efficacy of vaccines. Many videos ran the unsubstantiated claim that the vaccine causes death, infertility, or contained a secret microchip that would be implanted into the recipient when administered. Though YouTube always strived to stay ahead of the tsunami of misinformation videos on its platform, finding and deleting them remains an uphill battle.
Much like the virus itself, the spread of these misinformation videos is difficult to contain and has a dangerous effect on its viewers. They undermine public confidence in the vaccine and in health and safety measures imposed on people by governing and health authorities. Misinformation videos employ sophisticated tactics that evade the platform’s official policy. On-camera creators often brandish medical credentials and use superior production in their video content. These videos go on to reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of subscribers who then share them widely too.