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YouTube adding tools to identify 'authoritative' health sources

Social media companies have recently been called out by The White House for not cracking down on COVID and vaccine misinformation.

YouTube says it will take steps to help its users identify health videos from "authoritative sources" to find credible information. It comes as the Biden administration has been calling out social media companies over allowing COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation.

"We’re adding new health source information panels on videos to help viewers identify videos from authoritative sources, and health content shelves that more effectively highlight videos from these sources when you search for specific health topics," read a blog post from Dr. Garth Graham, YouTube's Director and Global Head of Healthcare and Public Health Partnerships.

"These context cues are aimed at helping people more easily navigate and evaluate credible health information. People will still be able to find relevant videos from a range of sources in their search results," Graham continued.

YouTube assembled what it said was an "expert panel" to help define “authoritative health content sources," Graham wrote. He added that only "accredited health organizations and government entities" are part of the health context features, but other sources could be added later.

Even with the changes, many YouTube users would still need to choose to click on the videos.

The White House says social media companies haven't done enough to stop misinformation that has helped slow the pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. to a trickle. About 49% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Joe Biden said last Friday that those companies are "killing people” by failing to police misinformation on their platforms. Biden on Monday said the point of his rhetoric was to ramp up pressure on the companies to take action.

The administration has increasingly seized on false or misleading information about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines as a driver of that hesitance. It has referenced a study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit that studies extremism, that linked a dozen accounts to spreading the majority of vaccine disinformation on Facebook.

“Facebook isn’t killing people. These 12 people are out there giving misinformation, anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it, it's killing people," Biden said. "It’s bad information."

Last week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared misinformation about the vaccines a deadly threat to public health.

“Misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health,” Murthy said during remarks Thursday at the White House. “We must confront misinformation as a nation. Lives are depending on it.”

Murthy said technology companies and social media platforms must make meaningful changes to their products and software to reduce the spread of false information while increasing access to authoritative, fact-based sources.

Facebook on Friday responded to Biden’s attack, with spokesperson Kevin McAlister saying, “The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period."

The company also released a blog post saying its internal research showed it was not responsible for Biden's missed vaccination goal. “The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.”

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