YouTube said to remove videos linking 5G to COVID-19 pandemic

YouTube will be removing videos that draw links between the COVID-19 pandemic and 5G technology, according to multiple media reports including CNN and The Guardian. Quoting YouTube, the media reports added that such videos are considered as "borderline content". This means that even though the videos did not directly violate YouTube's policies, they may be suppressed in terms of ad revenue or completely removed. YouTube is also decreasing suggestion of such content in its algorithm, CNN reported.

This regulation comes after cell towers were reportedly attacked in Britain because of the theory linking the pandemic to 5G technology. According to BBC, three cell towers in Birmingham, Liverpool and Melling in Merseyside have been set on fire last week. A quick check by Marketing found that a conspiracy theorist by the name of David Icke has suggested in multiple interviews on YouTube since March that the cause of the COVID-19 virus is linked to the emergence of 5G technology. According to a report by Australian news channel 7NEWS, the conspiracy theory says 5G technology damages the human immune system. The news channel also showed snippets of Icke claiming that the COVID-19 is a "scam illusion", and that 5G technology originated in China, where the first virus outbreak started. Marketing has reached out to YouTube for a statement.

Online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have made efforts to combat misinformation since the outbreak of COVID-19. Last month, Facebook said it will be putting a COVID-19 information center at the top of everyone's Facebook feed. The goal, said Facebook, is to put authoritative information from organisations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organisation in front of everyone who uses Facebook's services, as well as prominent links to the websites of those organisations. Meanwhile, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has launched an Information Hub that dishes out tips on how healthcare workers, educators and local businesses can stay connected using the WhatsApp platform. The messaging app also donated US$1 million to the International Fact-Checking Network to expand the presence of local fact-checkers on WhatsApp.

To help advertisers during this period, YouTube also allowed the monetisation of content related to COVID-19 last month after it was previously banned. The coronavirus outbreak had fallen under the monetisation ban concerning "sensitive events", and YouTube's guidelines cited that a sensitive event is usually "an unforeseen event in which there has been a loss of life". While the coronavirus situation is considered a sensitive event, YouTube's sensitive events policy was designed to apply to short-term events of significant magnitude, such as a natural disaster. Due to the ongoing nature of COVID-19, YouTube will begin enabling ads for content discussing the coronavirus on a limited number of channels.

Separately, Twitter has also reportedly removed its blanket ban on ads that mention COVID-19, according to AdAge. This will allow marketers to be able to mention their pandemic responses in paid tweets. In its official blog, Twitter said it will continue to prioritise removing content when it has a clear call to action that could directly pose a risk to people’s health or well-being. It added that since 18 March, it has removed more than 1,100 tweets containing misleading and potentially harmful content from Twitter. Similarly, Google has allowed ads mentioning COVID-19 after initially blocking all ads that are related to the virus in January. In a statement to Marketing, a spokesperson from Google said it had broadly blocked ads related to COVID-19 under its sensitive events policy, which was designed to protect users and block ads that try to capitalise on short-term events like natural disasters. Now, it is looking at ways to support limited COVID-19-related ads from hospitals, medical providers, government entities, and non-profit organisations. "We realise that COVID-19 is becoming an important part of everyday conversation, including a relevant topic in political discourse and for many advertisers in different sectors, and we’re planning to allow more advertisers to run ads related to COVID-19 as soon as we’re able to do so safely," the spokesperson added.

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