28 February 2022, Berlin: On a laptop screen you can see the logo of Youtube.
Fabian Sommer—picture alliance/Getty Images)
July 21, 2022 4:06 PM EDT

YouTube will begin taking down content that promotes dangerous abortion methods or falsehoods about the safety of the procedure, responding to concerns from advocates about the spread of misinformation as abortion access declines in the U.S.

The hugely popular video site, which is part of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, said Thursday that it would follow guidelines from health authorities in implementing the policy, with enforcement “ramping up over the next few weeks.” Examples of content that would be removed under the policy include at-home abortion instructions that deviate from guidelines from health authorities and false claims that abortion often results in infertility or cancer, YouTube said.

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Medical professionals have reported seeing an uptick in unsafe abortion-related content on social media, including viral videos about the use of toxic herbs to stop a pregnancy, since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a ruling that provided federal protection for abortion rights for five decades.

“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,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.

Melissa Fowler, the chief program officer at the National Abortion Federation, said the new policy by YouTube was a good step.

“We should be holding platforms accountable and making sure that people who are searching for information about abortion are not subjected to any type of medical misinformation or misleading content,” she said in an interview. “People should be able to trust that they are being directed to places where they can get accurate information about abortion and their options.”

YouTube said it would also begin showing information from health authorities alongside videos and search results regarding abortion. The company provides similar information alongside searches related to Covid-19 and elections.

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YouTube has tightened its medical rules several times since the pandemic began. In 2020, YouTube banned inaccurate information about Covid-19, although critics say the company’s enforcement of the rules has fallen short.

After Covid-19 vaccines were introduced, YouTube barred videos casting doubt on the science behind treatments before deciding, last fall, to extend the ban to cover any vaccines.

With assistance from Mark Bergen.

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