YouTube suspends OAN after network shares fake coronavirus cure

YouTube has temporarily suspended One America News Network, the right-wing cable news outlet, and stripped it from its ability to monetise its views after the network uploaded a video promoting a debunked “cure” for the coronavirus.

The network has been suspended from uploading new videos for one week.

“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 in a statement to The Independent.

Under its “three strikes” policy, YouTube can permanently terminate accounts that have repeatedly violated YouTube’s Covid-19 misinformation policies. OAN has received warnings for repeatedly publishing false or misleading information and amplifying conspiracy theories.

The platform has expanded its medical information policy to cover the Covid-19 pandemic, including prohibiting content that denies the existence of Covid-19 or contradicts guidance from health officials and medical experts.

YouTube has removed more than 200,000 videos containing “dangerous or misleading” Covid-19 information, according to the company.

The platform also has elevated “authoritative” sources for coronavirus information – YouTube does not consider OAN an authoritative source, which impacts its rankings for user search results for Covid-19 news.

Google, YouTube’s parent company, is among several tech giants that have sought to remove mis- and disinformation across online platforms ahead of the 2020 presidential election and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

YouTube also has removed QAnon– and “pizzagate”-affiliated accounts and videos from its platform, expanding a policy that prohibits content that “threatens or harrasses someone by suggesting they are complicit in one of these harmful conspiracies.”

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have implemented similar policies, scrubbing hundreds of accounts, pages and groups linked to the cult-like conspiracy theories.

As major news networks, including right-leaning Fox News, reported the results of the 2020 election and Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden, the president and his allies have promoted self-defined “pro-Trump” OAN and Newsmax, another conservative news network.

“Many great alternatives are forming & exist. Try @OANN & @newsmax, among others!” the president posted on Twitter.

The network has participated in White House press briefings, as a guest of the administration, after the White House press corp barred its reporters from the briefing room for violating distancing guidelines.

In a now-retracted OAN segment from 7 May, one reporter amplified a conspiracy theory claiming that the patent for the Covid-19 drug treatment from Remdesivir – which has been used by the president – is controlled by the Chinese government, Bill Gates, the World Health Organisation and the Clintons, “allegedly backed by globalist billionaire George Soros.”

Following the election, the network posted a video falsely declaring “Trump Won,” though YouTube did not remove the video; it removed adverts and added a  warning label, noting that the platform will “continue to be vigilant in the post-election period.”

On Tuesday, a group of Democratic Senators wrote to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki urging the platform to remove “all election outcome misinformation” and prevent similar content from appearing across its platform, similar to preventative measures on other platforms, as voters in Georgia prepare for a crucial Senate runoff election.

“YouTube and its industry peers must take responsibility and immediately stop the spread of misinformation and manipulated media on their platforms,” the senators wrote.

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