YouTube accused of promoting fake cancer cure videos

YouTube is accused of advertising fake cancer cure videos in a variety of languages and according to the investigation by BBC, these fake cancer cure videos are being advertised for major brands and universities.

According to BBC findings, YouTube contains more than 80 videos of health misinformation on the platform and more than 10 videos had a million views along with ads.

The advertisements appearing before fake cancer cure videos were from known brands including Samsung, Heinz, and Clinique and if you take a look at it from YouTube’s advertising perspective then it means that both the company and the video makers are generating revenue through the misinformation clips.

YouTube’s new policy limits misinformation only in English

In January, YouTube announced its reduction in recommendations of content with misinformation such as videos promoting a fake cure for illness to users. This new policy by YouTube has a limited impact on only videos in the United States and it does not apply to languages other than English.

Recently, BBC found out videos of fake cancer cure in languages including English, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Persian, Hindi, German, French and Italian. So, the policy by YouTube doesn’t apply to other languages which mean that they’ll still be promoted to users via recommendation algorithms. According to the Community Guidelines of YouTube, any advertisement of content including remedies or cures of harmful substances or treatments that can affect health is banned. The videos related to curing cancer were not harmful directly but if a cancer sufferer applies any of that remedy on himself it might affect his health.

Generating revenue through the spread of misinformation

When BBC monitored the fake cancer cure videos, they realized that before the videos a lot of advertisements by known brands took place. Brands like Samsung, Clinique, and Heinz promoted their content before the fake cancer cure videos. The advertisements of Booking.com, writing app Grammarly, and a lot of ads of British universities including the University of East Anglia and the University of Gloucestershire appeared before the videos containing a fake cure for cancer.

Response from the brands

When the brands came to know about their advertisements running before fake cure videos they immediately contacted YouTube to request for the removal of their ads from the platforms. All of the brands accused of promoting their content before fake cancer cure videos stated that they were unaware of this relativity with fake cancer cure videos and immediately removed their advertisements as it was against their own policies of advertisements.


Insight on the workings of YouTube’s algorithm

The advertisements on YouTube are used to target a specific region or to engage particular audiences. YouTube always tries to make the experience of users worthwhile by displaying right ads to the right people at the right time just to not let its users get bored on the platform and to also provide opportunities to advertisers, creators and the platform as well to generate revenue. YouTube’s policy also prohibits channels to generate any revenue from advertising if they violate any of the platform’s policy. The demonetization can prevent creators to generate revenue but it doesn’t limit the videos from going viral so the demonetization does not limit the spread of misinformation on the platform.

BBC found out about the fake cure videos on YouTube and most of them have been demonetized already for violating the revenue-generating policy of YouTube.

Some of the videos on YouTube promoted to also seek help from professionals whereas others directly recommended to not get help from any of the professionals at all.

Conclusion

YouTube is a platform that is updating its policy every once in a while to address the issues faced by its users. Curbing misinformation on the platform is indeed a difficult task to perform. There is no official statement by YouTube on the accusations by BBC but we think there should be some new policies for multiple languages so that this spread of fake information can stop.


Photo: pressureUA via Getty Images

Read next: Mozilla Insisting YouTube to Improve their Recommendation Algorithm

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