If you’re looking to fix your car or prepare sushi, how-to videos on YouTube can be a valuable guide. Some instructional clips, however, are more perilous than helpful, and YouTube is taking action against a specific subset of those dangerous videos. The prominent platform has announced a crackdown on content that promotes “unsafe abortion methods” as part of its larger battle against misinformation.
YouTube revealed its new policy in a series of tweets. “Like all of our policies on health/medical topics, we rely on published guidance from health authorities,” reads the company’s statement. “We prioritize connecting people to content from authoritative sources on health topics, and we continuously review our policies & products as real world events unfold.”
1/ 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. https://t.co/P7A27WPYuD
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— YouTubeInsider (@YouTubeInsider) July 21, 2022
To put its new protocol in writing, YouTube has updated its misinformation policies. The section labeled “contradicting expert consensus on safe medical practices” now includes a reference to the “promotion of alternative abortion methods in place of chemical or surgical methods deemed safe by health authorities.” Videos peddling those methods will not be permitted, and YouTube will add a panel to abortion-related videos that defines the procedure as one “done by a licensed healthcare professional.”
YouTube has been preparing changes to its policy on abortion videos ever since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was first leaked. Back in May, CEO Susan Wojcicki noted that unfactual videos about reproductive rights are widespread, “because there will always be incentives for people to keep creating misinformation.” YouTube has also looked to curb misleading, dangerous, and conspiratorial videos that discuss topics like COVID-19, U.S. elections, climate change, and, the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The goal of YouTube’s latest crackdown is to protect the safety of abortion seekers. A recent study revealed that 11% of Google search results for searches for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” revealed fake clinics set up by anti-abortion actors. “Directing women towards fake clinics that traffic in misinformation and don’t provide comprehensive health services is dangerous to women’s health and undermines the integrity of Google’s search results,” wrote a group of D.C. lawmakers in a letter to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.
Google’s other actions related to abortion have included a recent change that hides users’ locations when they visit abortion clinics.