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YouTube in the time of coronavirus: limiting misinformation and promoting authoritative sources

Amidst increasing concern about the global spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), there are unfortunately people who share bad information, either out of ignorance or for personal gain. And, as is well known,YouTube is an excellent platform for spreading information, both good and bad. With that in mind, Google is taking steps to help increase the availability of authoritative information, and reduce the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 on YouTube and in its advertising ecosystem.

To stay up to date with the current news subscribe to get an email when YouTube announces a new COVID-19-related change. I am also updating this article as changes occur.

Update March 11, 2020: The YouTube Help Center now has a dedicated page with Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) updates. A limited number of channels will also be able to monetize COVID-19-related content. 

Update March 16, 2020: YouTube announced they are temporarily increasing automated content reviews. If your video is removed, and you get a Community Guidelines strike, there may also be a delay in reviewing your appeal. These delays will also affect review of channels for the YouTube Partner Program.  

Update March 20, 2020: YouTube is highlighting positive content, with a new Learn@Home page, and #StayHome #WithMe creator initiative.

Update May 20, 2020: YouTube has a new page with detailed information on the COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy.

Update October 15, 2020: YouTube expanded the COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy to prohibit misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

As a YouTube creator, you should be aware of how this may affect you and your channel, especially if you post videos with coronavirus-related content. 

Google is adding more support for live streaming and video conferencing, as more people work, learn and meet from home.

Read on for more details about the actions YouTube and Google are taking.

How YouTube is helping people find useful information

YouTube is taking steps to make it easier to find authoritative information about the coronavirus. 

Update March 20, 2020: There is now a dedicated COVID-19 News Shelf on the YouTube homepage, featuring videos from authoritative news sources. 
If you are a news publisher with a YouTube channel, you can submit your YouTube video content to Google News.

If you search YouTube for "coronavirus" or "COVID-19", there is a banner at the top of the page linking to the World Health Organization's (WHO) page about the virus

That is followed by Top News from mainstream media news sources.
Search results for "coronavirus" on YouTube.
Search results for "coronavirus" on YouTube from the US.

If you search for "coronavirus cure" there are also results from medical centers, hospitals and a few creators who post about medical topics. 

Update April 1, 2020: 
Starting today, we’re launching additional health panels for COVID-19 that show in search results for COVID-19 related searches. These panels include text-based health info from the WHO and NHS, and content like symptoms, prevention and treatment. During this time, we want to continue to prioritize local health sources, so you may see both an information panel with a link to a local health authority and the COVID-19 health panel.
Google is also donating ad space to "governments and NGOs in impacted regions" so that they can promote helpful information. 

What does that mean for creators? Vlogs and informational videos about coronavirus by YouTubers can still be found, but only when additional terms are included in the search. It's not likely your video will rank more highly than CNN in the YouTube search results. 
Search results for "coronavirus pewdiepie" on YouTube.

How YouTube is preventing the spread of misinformation

YouTube has been heavily criticism for being a hotbed of conspiracy theories and using algorithms that push users towards more extreme content. False news is already being spread about the coronavirus on multiple platforms, so this is of immediate concern.

 YouTube has been trying to reduce those effects. Last year they updated their policy to reduce recommendations of videos that could "misinform in harmful ways."

In some cases, videos may also be removed. 

The "spam, deceptive practices, and scams" policy explicitly prohibits misleading metadata (including title, description, thumbnails and tags) and manipulated media meant to mislead users that "may pose a serious risk of egregious harm."

YouTube also prohibits harmful content, including "promoting dangerous remedies or cures."

What does this mean for creators?  Beyond those general policies, YouTube is "working to quickly remove any content that claims to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment."

Further YouTube will not show ads on content which is not "advertiser-friendly", which includes sensitive events like global health crises. Even if your video is not touting a coronavirus cure, you will not be able to monetize it. 

Update March 11, 2020: YouTube will begin showing ads on content about COVID-19 on a limited number of channels. Currently that includes "a range of news partners" and Partners who "accurately self-certify". This should expand over time.

Update April 2, 2020: All YouTube Partners will be able to monetize COVID-19 content that complies with the Community Guidelines and Advertiser-Friendly Guidelines.

Update May 20, 2020: YouTube has a new page with detailed information on the COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy.

There have been claims this is "censorship", but these are the policies users have agreed to by using YouTube as a platform. They both help prevent the spread of misinformation and keep advertisers - the folks paying the bills - happy.

Advertisers are also affected by these policies. While sometimes it may seem like advertisers get a pass, Google Ads is blocking ads that capitalize on the coronavirus, so you should not be seeing those on videos either.

Note that if you have a website monetized with AdSense ads, the Google Publisher Policies also prohibit monetization of misrepresentative content and may restrict ads on pages promoting unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements.

Learn more about the steps Google and other Social Media sites are taking to prevent the spread of misinformation.

Communication Tools

As many international conferences have been cancelled (including Google I/O), and many employers have started encouraging people to work from home, Google and other companies have expanded access to communication tools. 

YouTube Live Streaming

While YouTube has not announced any new live streaming features, they are "adding resources to be able to support increased demand for public livestreaming on YouTube."

It's easy to live stream from YouTube with just a webcam, but doesn't offer any option to have multiple participants in the broadcast. There are a number of third party services you can use to live stream a webinar or meeting, including free options from StreamYard and Lightstream Studio.

Hangouts Meet

In particular, Google is providing free access to Hangouts Meet "Enterprise" level features to all G Suite customers until July 1st. These features include:
This may take up to two or three weeks to roll out to all customers. And then the G Suite administrator still needs to enable Meet video calling (if it's not enabled already), and turn on live streaming and recording.

Hangouts Meet video calls can only be initiated by G Suite users. But anyone can join a Hangouts Meet meeting with an invitation. It doesn't even require participants to be signed in to a Google account. 

Note that live streaming is not to YouTube and is not public. Only people within your G Suite organization will be able to view the live stream, so that is not a way to share a meeting with the general public.

Consumer users without a G Suite account can use classic Hangouts video calling for meetings. You can have up to 25 participants in your call. However, there are no built-in recording or live streaming options. 

Learn more about recent updates to conferencing tools
Video conferencing tips
I hope you all stay healthy and don't forget to wash your hands!


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Spam and personal attacks are not allowed. Any comment may be removed at my own discretion ~ Peggy