YouTube announced this week that it will start removing fake news about coronavirus vaccines, also extending to this type of content the rules that already existed about political manipulation, conspiracy theories and other lying publications. Basically, any content that contradicts the scientific consensus of local health authorities or the World Health Organization (WHO) will be subject to withdrawal.
Previously, the rules related to fake news about the new coronavirus included, as far as vaccines are concerned, only one topic against content that reports on possible cures or miracle remedies to fight the virus, which do not yet exist. Now, the norms also cover the famous theories that medicines are a control mechanism or aimed at killing the population, among other absurd examples that, we know, circulate a lot around.
According to YouTube, the new rules come, precisely, in approaching the launch of vaccines, as a way to ensure that the information conveyed on the platform is legitimate. The company also claims that materials that do not necessarily violate the rules, but that pass close to that or have been created as a way to spread alarmism will have their scope and recommendations reduced, in order to avoid misinformation and control the spread of false news.
This is a present need, especially after a study by the Oxford Research Institute, in partnership with Reuters, found more than 20 million shares of uninformative videos about the coronavirus, posted on YouTube and disseminated widely on social networks. The number is greater than the combined audience of the largest US television networks. On the other hand, the total number of removals is about 8.1 thousand contents, which the study claims to be less than 1% of all posts about the coronavirus made since the beginning of the pandemic and an amount well below the pace of fake news. existing on the platform.
The new rules, meanwhile, arrive to reinforce an already existing YouTube stance regarding the anti-vaccine movement, for example, with uninformative publications of this type already being subject to removal since the middle of last year. Such content gained strength in the approach of drugs to immunize the population against the new coronavirus, which leads the platform to create specific rules related to its fight against disinformation specifically about the pandemic, even though they are redundant in relation to other types of rules already existing.
Official figures show that videos removed from YouTube more than doubled during the pandemic, with more than 11 million posts taken down between April and June 2020. However, data related to fake news about coronavirus does not appear in the listing platform, with most withdrawals (33.5%) related to child safety issues. Brazil ranked third among the countries with the greatest number of removals, behind only the United States and India.
As always, YouTube uses its automated algorithm to identify the fakes news, but it also asks for help from the community, which can make complaints and indicate to moderation teams the content they believe is spreading fake news. The platform cites its users as an integral part of this gear, even considering that most of the removed materials are identified using its algorithms, which can end up generating some false positives.
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