Is YouTube’s ban on misinformation truly a ban on “misinformation”?

On September 29, YouTube released a company update entitled, “Managing harmful vaccine content on YouTube.”

In it, the video platform describes policy changes aimed at removing content that spreads “misinformation.”

Misinformation defined is “false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive,” according to Oxford Languages.

Given YouTube and other social media companies’ history of removing content that is accurate, such as true life accounts of vaccine injury, many users have asked, “Is the definition of misinformation based on what YouTube believes to be true about vaccines?”

Here are a few screenshots of the policy updates:

To say that vaccines are not dangerous and do not potentially have links to autism, cancer, or infertility, given that the Covid-19 vaccine has only been around for less than a year, could not possibly be accurate. We are experiencing the human trials of these vaccines, today.

This section cites “medical consensus.” However, which medical consensus are we referring to? The first section assumes that there are no risks of autism, cancer, or infertility due to vaccines, but credentialed doctors exist who, in their opinion, would link vaccines to these health issues due to their research. Or in the case of Covid-19 vaccines, they would say that it is impossible to know since the vaccines have only existed for such a short time. Therefore, medical consensus surrounding the guidance of vaccines meaning “all doctors” is inaccurate. In this case, medical consensus means the majority of the medical community that agrees with the US government, and vice versa.

In this section, YouTube says that personal testimonials relating to vaccines is allowed, but at the same time says the channel must not “show a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy.”

Though content may be reviewed subjectively and removed at YouTube’s discretion on a case by case basis, we might interpret this to mean that a channel dedicated to sharing the stories of people with adverse vaccine side effect may be removed, but an individual whose channel is dedicated to baking and then wants to share their account of an adverse vaccine reaction may be left up. Or, it may mean that any video, even with no recurring pattern, sharing a personal testimonial of vaccine injury may be removed. In either case, the removal of potentially true information is an affront to democracy if social media sites like YouTube are the current “public square” of national conversation as they have been in the past.

The debate about free speech, a free press, and what those mean to society is at play. Ultimately, due to distrust of government entities, social media companies and tech companies, alternatives to these platforms where free speech is championed may likely emerge as the free market winner where people can be presented with a plethora of non-censored ideas and make up their own minds. Without uncensored free speech, citizens do not have the tools they need to make the best, informed decision.

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