YouTube removed more than 1 million videos related to “dangerous coronavirus information” since February 2020 when the outbreak first emerged in the U.S, the company said Wednesday.
The videos YouTube removed included content spreading false claims about the pandemic, such as about false cures or claims of a hoax, according to the platform.
The videos were taken down in line with YouTube’s policies that center on removing “any videos that can directly lead to egregious real world harm,” YouTube’s chief product officer Neal Mohan said in the blog post.
YouTube’s post detailing its removal of COVID-19 misinformation was published after the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress have ramped up calls for social media giants to tackle false claims about the coronavirus and vaccines amid a surge in cases as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.
In the post, though, Mohan defends YouTube’s policies around misinformation and cautions against putting in place more aggressive removal policies.
“An overly aggressive approach towards removals would also have a chilling effect on free speech. Removals are a blunt instrument, and if used too widely, can send a message that controversial ideas are unacceptable,” Mohan said in the post.
In terms of COVID-19 information, YouTube relies on consensus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to determine false claims.
But in other cases, he said, “misinformation is less clear-cut.”
“In the absence of certainty, should tech companies decide when and where to set boundaries in the murky territory of misinformation? My strong conviction is no,” Mohan said.
In addition to its policies around removing content, Mohan said the platform aims to reduce the spread of videos with harmful misinformation and boost the reach of information from “trusted sources.”