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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

Pakistan PM will "absolutely not" allow CIA to use bases for Afghanistan operations

Pakistan will "absolutely not" allow the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to use bases on its soil for cross-border counterterrorism missions after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan tells "Axios on HBO" in a wide-ranging interview airing Sunday at 6 pm ET.

Why it matters: The quality of counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan is a critical question facing the Biden administration as U.S. forces move closer to total withdrawal by Sept. 11.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. wants nuclear deal done before Iran's new president takes power

Iranian negotiatorAbbas Araghchi arrives at the Grand Hotel Wien for the nuclear talks. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration wants to finalize a deal with Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal in the six weeks remaining before a new Iranian president is inaugurated, a U.S. official tells Axios.

Key quote: The official said it would be "concerning" if talks dragged on into early August, when Iran's transition is due to take place. "If we don't have a deal before a new government is formed, I think that would raise serious questions about how achievable it's going to be," the official said.