YouTube has announced that it will start cracking down on videos containing misinformation about abortion and remove content with false claims about the procedure under the platform’s updated medical misinformation policies according to a report published in DRM.
“Starting today and ramping up over the next few weeks, we will remove content that provides instructions for unsafe abortion methods or promotes false claims about abortion safety under our medical misinformation policies,” YouTube stated in a tweet posted on Thursday.
YouTube has added abortion-related content to its medical misinformation policies which also prohibit misleading claims about Covid-19 and vaccines. The expansion in the video-sharing platform’s policy comes after the US Supreme Court eliminated last month the constitutional right to abortion by overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision. The verdict has led several states to enacting laws that criminalize the procedure. In light of these events, medical experts warned that misinformation will push people toward dangerous methods available online, including DIY videos with instructions on how to self-induce an abortion.
“Like all of our policies on health/medical topics, we rely on published guidance from health authorities,” said YouTube. “We prioritize connecting people to content from authoritative sources on health topics, and we continuously review our policies & products as real-world events unfold.”
“Pregnant people have always needed accurate information about sexual and reproductive health and now with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a disinformation epidemic must be prevented and stemmed immediately,” said Shaunna Thomas
YouTube’s existing guidelines prohibit content that “promotes harmful substances, treatments, or substances that present an inherent risk of severe bodily harm or death”. Additionally, the platform also bars content that “contradicts expert consensus on certain safe medical practices”.
YouTube is also launching an information panel that will provide viewers with context and information from local and global health authorities under abortion-related videos and above relevant search results, according to the platform.
According to a report by Variety, YouTube was urged by gender-justice advocacy group UltraViolet earlier this month to contain the spread of misinformation related to abortion. The group organized an open letter in collaboration with Physicians for Reproductive Health which was signed by more than 190 organizations and over 70 healthcare providers.
“Pregnant people have always needed accurate information about sexual and reproductive health and now with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a disinformation epidemic must be prevented and stemmed immediately,” said Shaunna Thomas, Ultraviolet’s executive director. “YouTube’s decision to start removing abortion-related misinformation and linking to factual information is a critical step in protecting public health and the people who seek answers and solutions to reproductive health options online.”
Earlier, Google announced that the company would delete the location data of users visiting “particularly personal” medical facilities, including fertility clinics. Concerns were raised that this data could inform law enforcement of individuals seeking abortion and trigger legal complications for them.