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YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan. Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

YouTube's product chief tells Axios that the Google-owned video site has removed thousands of COVID-19 videos — including some from the Brazilian president's channel — for violating policies related to the spread of medical misinformation.

Why it matters: Though criticized in the past for allowing misinformation to flourish, Facebook, Google and Twitter have all been taking a tougher stand when it comes to the coronavirus.

What they're saying: In an interview, Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said YouTube has been focused on a twofold approach: making authoritative information more prominent and aggressively removing policy-violating content.

  • YouTube has been prominently surfacing videos from news organizations and health officials.
  • It's even been showing an information panel on its home page linking to national health agencies' websites — the first time YouTube has linked to a text site rather than a video. The panel has now been shown more than 9 billion times, Mohan said.
  • It's also worked with creators, including several who interviewed U.S. infectious disease prevention chief Anthony Fauci.

Meanwhile: YouTube is also aggressively enforcing existing medical misinformation policies that prohibit promoting false cures or encouraging people not to see a doctor.

  • And it expanded that policy to bar promoting actions that go against recommendations from national health authorities.
  • It was on that basis that the company took down posts by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the virus and the importance of social distancing and other precautions.

Be smart: In all, Mohan said, YouTube has removed thousands of videos.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, YouTube's policies are entirely focused on the content of a video and not who is doing the speaking. That means politicians, journalists, and entertainers are all held to the same standard, at least in theory.

Mohan was more equivocal when asked if someone could post, say, a video suggesting people try a medicine that had yet to be approved by the FDA for treating the coronavirus.

"That gets at the challenge," Mohan acknowledged. "It's a balancing act.... We are not medical experts ourselves."

Mohan said that he has other product changes on his to-do list, but acknowledges the virus and related issues have occupied most of his attention.

  • "We are heads-down on this challenge," he said. "When we come up for air we will take a look."

Go deeper: Coronavirus inspires divergent messages and misinformation

Correction: This story originally said that YouTube, unlike Facebook and Google, based its misinformation policy solely on the content rather than who is saying it. That should have said that, unlike Facebook and Twitter, Google and YouTube both base their decisions solely on content, while Twitter and Facebook have some different policies for certain people, such as politicians.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
8 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania.