In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.
Dan Milmo at The Guardian reports that YouTube will take down videos with vaccine misinformation, including claims that they cause autism.
Matt Halprin, the global head of trust and safety at YouTube, said vaccine misinformation was a global problem and had spilled over from the spreading of falsehoods about Covid jabs.
“Vaccine misinformation appears globally, it appears in all countries and cultures,” he said.
Halprin added that falsehoods around the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which has been wrongly attributed to causing autism, were an example of the misinformation YouTube will target.
“There is still a lot of challenges around MMR and people arguing whether that causes autism. And as we know, the science is very stable that vaccines do not cause autism,” he said.
Halprin said the ban would also apply, for instance, to content that claims vaccines cause cancer, infertility or contain microchips, the latter having gained prominence as a falsehood about Covid jabs.
In 2019, a major study affirmed that there was no link between autism and MMR, in the wake of a pre-Covid upsurge in vaccine scepticism, fanned by social media and anti-government populism. A paper in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, which is published by the American College of Physicians, found “no support for the hypothesis of increased risk for autism after MMR vaccination in a nationwide unselected population of Danish children”.
On Wednesday, a search under the terms “MMR vaccine autism” produced a page of results containing rebuttals of any link between the vaccine and autism, including a video entitled “Vaccines and autism: how the myth started”. However, the page also includes a TV interview with the actor Robert De Niro in which he states that Vaxxed, a documentary directed by Andrew Wakefield – one of the key figures in promoting discredited links between MMR and autism – is a film that “people should see”. De Niro was being interviewed in 2016 after his Tribeca film festival pulled a screening of Vaxxed in the wake of a backlash against the film.