YouTube on Thursday said it will no longer allow misinformation related to abortion on its platform, including false claims about the safety of the procedure and potentially unsafe instructions about how to self-induce an abortion.
The video-sharing service added abortion-related content to its medical misinformation policies, which also prohibit false claims about COVID-19 and vaccines. The policy change takes effect Thursday.
“We believe it’s important to connect people to content from authoritative sources regarding health topics, and we continuously review our policies and products as real world events unfold,” YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez said in a statement.
The policy update comes amid widespread attention to abortion, and the accessibility of the procedure, after the Supreme Court last month overturned Roe v. Wade. Medical experts have warned that bad actors may try to capitalize on the confusion and emotional upset caused by various states limiting access to abortion in order to spread false claims about the procedure. Toxicologists have also raised concerns about dangerous “DIY” abortion methods that have been shared on social media.
TikTok recently began removing abortion-related videos that violate its policy against medical misinformation, including those that share potentially dangerous advice about how to self-induce an abortion.
Google, which owns YouTube, has come under a unique amount of scrutiny from lawmakers and privacy advocates for the wide range of data it collects on users, which could be used by law enforcement to enforce anti-abortion laws. Earlier this month, the company said it would delete location data when users visit abortion clinics. Lawmakers have also urged Google to prevent searches for abortion clinics from returning misleading results and ads that direct users to facilities that oppose the procedure.
Under the new, global misinformation policy, YouTube will remove content that promotes or provides instructions for “unsafe or alternative” abortion methods that are not supported by health authorities. It will also remove misinformation related to the safety of abortion, such as the false claim that abortions have a high risk of causing infertility.
YouTube will also start attaching an information panel to all abortion-related content and search results to point users to credible information from health authorities, such as the US National Library of Medicine.
As with many social media policies, however, the challenge isn’t introducing it but enforcing it. YouTube said its enforcement systems around the new abortion misinformation policy will ramp up in the coming weeks and months.