Wednesday, September 29, 2021

YouTube vs the Kremlin - refusal to publish anti-vax misinformation leads to ban on RT.

The Youtube platform has adopted a stricter policy of refusing to allow anti-vaccination misinformation and this has resulted in a row with the Kremlin.

Following the adoption of new guidelines the Russian state propaganda arm RT was suspended from the platform for a week after warnings over videos which were considered to be in breach of the platform's COVID-19 misinformation guidelines. RT was then deleted altogether after it registered a second channel to subvert the suspension. Needless to say the Kremlin was not happy.

YouTube also removed a number of channels on which it was falsely alleged "that approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects" as part of its new policy on vaccine misinformation.

The company said its new approach to handling anti-vaccine videos includes tackling "content that falsely says that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility, or that substances in vaccines can track those who receive them".

YouTube had already banned the spreading of false information about the COVID-19 vaccines, and this ban is now being extended to cover others such as the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.

YouTube said it has removed more than 130,000 videos for violating its COVID-19 vaccine policies.

Earlier this year, the UK's vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said the government was battling a tsunami of disinformation about vaccines, while the US surgeon general said health-related misinformation was "a serious public threat".

Last year, YouTube deleted David Icke's channel over his pandemic misinformation because he repeatedly posted videos supporting a scientifically impossible conspiracy theory tying COVID-19 to 5G mobile masts.

YouTube said there are "important exceptions" to its new guidelines, and will continue to allow personal testimonies relating to vaccines "so long as the video doesn't violate other Community Guidelines, or the channel doesn't show a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy".

Videos about vaccination policy and trials, and about historical successes and failures in vaccinations, are going to be allowed to remain on the site too.

It's a difficult issue reconciling freedom of speech with the need to prevent the spread of dangerous falsehoods which are a threat to people's lives. 

I don't believe anyone should be prosecuted for expressing an honest belief even if the government disagrees with it provided that opinion is not expressed in a way which amounts to incitement to criminal action, and subject to the right of anyone who has been the target of libel or slander to seek reasonable redress in the civil courts. But a platform should have the right to refuse to carry statements it considers dangerous falsehoods - just as I reserve the right not to publish comments I consider to be dangerous anti-vax misinformation.

As for Russia and RT, I am afraid they have form for deliberately poisoning the vaccination debate and spreading misinformation which I believe to be a deliberate attempt to harm countries they see as potential rivals or enemies. I do not believe there is any need for the peoples of Britain and the West and the people of Russia to be enemies and regret that the Russian regime finds it necessary to behave in this way.

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