5G and coronavirus: YouTube vows to crack down on videos spreading baseless conspiracy theory

Google-owned company refers to videos as 'borderline content'

Andrew Griffin@_andrew_griffin
Monday 06 April 2020 10:03
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YouTube videos that promote the baseless conspiracy theory that 5G is causing the coronavirus pandemic will be suppressed, the company has said.

The conspiracy theory has surged in popularity in recent days, after being promoted in a number of viral posts and by many celebrities. It has led to a number of dangerous incidents, including the torching of phone masts and the harassment of network engineers.

Many of those posts have been documented on YouTube, where videos have advanced the theory that the outbreak of Covid-19 is somehow linked to phone networks, despite all scientific evidence.

The company says it considers such videos to be "borderline content", meaning that they will be pushed down in YouTube's rankings though not necessarily removed from the site entirely.

YouTube said that while it will remove such posts if they violate its policies – such as if they promote dangerous remedies or cures, explicitly contradict official advice or deny that coronavirus exists – some of them will stay online.

Instead, it will seek to reduce the reach of that borderline content and promote more authoritative stories instead, it said.

"Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the coronavirus around the world. We’re committed to providing timely and helpful information at this critical time, including raising authoritative content, reducing the spread of harmful misinformation and showing information panels, using NHS and WHO data, to help combat misinformation," a YouTube spokesperson said.

"We also have clear policies that prohibit videos promoting medically unsubstantiated methods to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us.

"We have also begun reducing recommendations of borderline content such as conspiracy theories related to 5G and coronavirus, that could misinform users in harmful ways. We’ll continue to evaluate the impact of these videos on the UK community and look forward to continuing our work with the UK Government and the NHS to keep the British public safe and informed during this difficult time."

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