YouTube Bans Adverts on Anti-Vaccination Video Channels

A picture shows a You Tube logo on December 4, 2012 during LeWeb Paris 2012 in Saint-Denis near Paris. Le Web is Europe's largest tech conference, bringing together the entrepreneurs, leaders and influencers who shape the future of the internet. Getty Images

YouTube has banned videos on channels promoting anti-vaccination conspiracy theories and pseudo-science from running adverts monetizing the content.

Buzzfeed News on Friday reported the existence of videos on the platform Friday which violate its terms of use, and said that some advertisers had objected to YouTube and pulled their adverts after finding them running on anti-vaccination videos.

In a statement to the outlet Friday, YouTube said that its existing policies prohibiting the monetization of "harmful and dangerous" content covered anti-vaccination videos.

"We have strict policies that govern what videos we allow ads to appear on, and videos that promote anti-vaccination content are a violation of those policies," YouTube said in a statement on Friday.

"We enforce these policies vigorously, and if we find a video that violates them we immediately take action and remove ads."

The videos were already deemed harmful content under the company's policies, but had slipped through the site's filters and continued to make money through advertising.

A spokesman for Vitacost, a vitamin supplement company, told Buzzfeed it had pulled its advertising from YouTube after its presence on anti-vaccination videos was brought to their attention.

"We had strict rules to prevent our ads from serving on sensitive content and they were not effective as promised," the spokesperson said.

"We will continue to remain off of the platform until those changes are made and are proven to be effective by other advertisers," they added.

Several other companies asked their adverts to be pulled from the videos, according to the report.

Anti-vaccination propaganda has been partly blamed for a spike in measles outbreaks this year, with 120 reported since January alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization reported that in 2018 there had been a "record" number of the cases in Europe.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California has called for Google, which owns YouTube, and Facebook to halt the spread of anti-vaccination content on their platforms.

"There is strong evidence to suggest that at least part of the source of this trend is the degree to which medically inaccurate information about vaccines surfaces on the websites many Americans get their information, among them YouTube and Google search," Schiff wrote in an open letter Thursday to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Google in January said it had changed its algorithms to stop videos that "misinform users in harmful ways" featuring in lists of recommended content.