After recent escalations YouTube has started banning and otherwise restringing conspiracy theory videos linking 5G to COVID-19.
These seem to follow one particular incident, when on Monday, a lengthy live-streamed interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke, had him outright linking the new network technology and the virus.
The misinformed linking of 5G technology and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has already proven harmful as a few days ago, UK carriers were faced with notable infrastructure damages to network equipment. An act quickly condemned as being not only misguided, but also potentially dangerous and harming critical infrastructure, when it is sorely needed.
It is important to note that YouTube is not changing its rules but is simply doubling-down on its existing content policies towards mass misinformation and harmful conspiracy theories. Furthermore, most of the videos on the particular topic haven’t been outright banned or deleted - instead the streaming giant is demonetizing them and labeling them as “borderline” content. That also means that the YouTube algorithm won't be suggesting them, limiting their reach. That technically means that free speech is adhered to as well. Here's the official statement:
We have clear policies that prohibit videos promoting medically unsubstantiated methods to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us … Now any content that disputes the existence or transmission of Covid-19, as described by the WHO [World Health Organization] and local health authorities is in violation of YouTube policies. This includes conspiracy theories which claim that the symptoms are caused by 5G. For borderline content that could misinform users in harmful ways, we reduce recommendations. We'll continue to evaluate the impact of these videos on communities around the world.
Looking at the social situation in a broader sense, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis is nothing short of the ultimate test for just how far these corporate entities have managed to push the content moderation and fact-checking measures, they have been promoting and promising for a while now.