Culture

YouTube puts OANN in time-out after it pushed a fake COVID-19 cure

That's one strike for One America News Network.

Close up of laptop with chain and padlock.
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One America News Network (OANN) has finally gotten on YouTube's nerves. According to Axios, which first reported the incident, the right-wing outlet has been hit with a temporary suspension order from the video platform company.

The outlet was found to have violated YouTube guidelines after it promoted a fake COVID-19 cure to its 1.2 million subscribers. According to Axios, YouTube has suspended OANN for one week, meaning that its videos will stay up without OANN having the ability to upload new clips until after the suspension period is over. It has also demonetized its videos for the time being. Once the suspension is over, OANN may re-apply to YouTube's ad partner program in order to monetize its content. In terms of strikes, which YouTube keeps track of for potential permanent removals and bans, this is the first strikeout of three against OANN.

Long overdue — This is the Google-owned company's first suspension against the right-wing news outlet, and it comes after Democratic senators have urged YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki to take swifter and more serious action against misinformation. In the past, YouTube has approached misinformation on its platform with a more relaxed tone. In one case, it even allowed OANN to falsely claim that Donald Trump had won the 2020 presidential race, which appears to be in stark contrast to Facebook and Twitter's more aggressive fact-checking. It cracked down on OANN this time presumably due to the delicate and urgent nature of public health.

This isn't the first time that someone from the Trump camp decided to peddle false claims and narratives around the deadly coronavirus. Facebook had a similar run-in with Breitbart after the latter promoted a video on the platform that depicted actors-as-doctors sharing COVID-19 hoaxes. The video was viewed over 17 million times.

It's possible that the temporary suspension and demonetization will encourage OANN to exercise more fact-checking and accuracy instead of spewing outlandish theories. But it is also very possible that OANN may take this incident as confirmation bias for the baseless theory many right-wingers have regarding "conservative bias" in tech. It doesn't matter that the belief has been debunked. Either way, if OANN wants a career on YouTube, it should consider reassessing its obsession with tinfoil hat conspiracies.