YouTube’s next fight against misinformation involves clamping down on videos that allege bogus cancer treatments.
Amid a surge of creators posting ‘miracle’ cures that purport to treat the ubiquitous disease via unscientific means, YouTube has been cutting off ads for such channels, a spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal, citing policies that ban videos that can result in immediate harm to viewers. YouTube is also working with doctors to identify such content — as well as other medical conspiracies — and tweaking its algorithm to reduce the frequency with which these videos are suggested.
Some of the bogus cures in question, per an investigation conducted by the Journal, include the use of a cell-killing ointment called black salve (to treat skin cancer), baking-soda injections, juicing regimens, and low-acid foods. Some channels also promote bogus cancer screening methods, like thermography — which shows the heat and blood flow near the surface of the skin — instead of more reliable means, like mammograms.
An investigation by the Journal found that such misinformation was typically being harnessed by purveyors to sell their own products, books, and other wares.
In May, YouTube sought to crack down on conspiracy videos urging viewers to drink a potentially fatal bleach beverage that some channels alleged could cure autism, cancer, malaria, and a host of other diseases.
The cancer cures would seem to be tangential to other medical misinformation that is currently running rampant on social platforms like YouTube and Facebook: the anti-vaccination movement. YouTube has demonetized anti-vax videos amid a measles outbreak earlier this year, which started in the Northwest. YouTube told the Journal that, all told, it removed 8.3 million videos for violating any policies during the first three months of 2019.