YouTube suspends OANN for allegedly peddling fake COVID-19 cures

YouTube suspends OANN for allegedly peddling fake COVID-19 cures
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YouTube has temporarily suspended OANN for promoting a fake COVID-19 cure on its channel. 

A spokesperson for the video platform told Axios on Tuesday that One America News Network (OANN), a conservative news outlet, will not be able to post any new content on its YouTube channel for a week — and is also no longer able to monetize video content.

The one-week ban is considered a ‘strike’ under YouTube’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. 

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The policy was implemented by Google in an attempt to stem a wave of fake news across social media and video services at the time of the first coronavirus outbreak, including fake COVID-19 cures and treatments, conspiracy theories concerning the origin of the virus, and stories claiming COVID-19 is a bioweapon. 

YouTube removes content deemed to “pose a serious risk of egregious harm,” including videos peddling COVID-19 prevention, treatment, diagnoses, and transmission information that contradicts the World Health Organization (WHO) and local healthcare authorities.

The company has provided examples of content that violates these policies, including:

  • Claims that COVID-19 doesn’t exist or that people do not die from it 
  • Content that encourages the use of home remedies in place of medical treatment 
  • Other content that discourages people from consulting a medical professional or seeking medical advice
  • Content that claims that any group or individual has immunity to the virus or cannot transmit the virus

The first time a YouTube channel goes against YouTube’s stance on COVID-19 content, the company will send an emailed warning. Afterward, YouTube will ‘strike’ a channel up to three times to bring the message home, before deleting a repeat offender’s channel entirely.  

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OANN’s video claimed there was a guaranteed cure, and this content has now been taken down by YouTube. 

According to Axios, the outlet has also been suspended from the YouTube Partner Program, which allows content creators to monetize their videos through adverts. In order to rejoin and monetize content in the future, OANN will have to reapply.

“After careful review, we removed a video from OANN and issued a strike on the channel for violating our COVID-19 misinformation policy, which prohibits content claiming there’s a guaranteed cure,” YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi said. 

The suspension comes at the same time US Senator Bob Menendez, together with Democrat colleagues, wrote and published a letter to YouTube, urging the company to take a stronger stance against election misinformation. 

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The letter, sent to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, asks for “aggressive steps” to be taken to prevent election outcome misinformation from spreading across the platform — ahead of upcoming Georgia run-off elections — and says that “YouTube and its industry peers must take responsibility and immediately stop the spread of misinformation and manipulated media on their platforms.”

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