In an effort to combat the spread of misinformation over the internet, YouTube has introduced a verification mechanism for medical professionals in the United Kingdom.
More than three billion times were spent watching videos related to health on the video-sharing platform in 2022 in the United Kingdom alone.
Since June, medical professionals such as physicians, nurses, and psychologists have been submitting applications for the program. In order to be considered, applicants must satisfy stringent criteria established by the tech giant.
Applicants who are selected for an interview will be given a credential that verifies their status as a legitimate and authorized member of the healthcare workforce.
However, YouTubers have cautioned that the system is solely intended for educational reasons and should not be used in place of the medical advice provided by your primary care physician.
Vishaal Virani, who is in charge of the health content for YouTube and says that it is vital owing to the sheer amount of people who access healthcare information on the video-sharing site, stated that it is important.
“Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, and whether the health industry is pushing for it or not, people are accessing health information online,” he told the BBC. “Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not.”
“When people do start their care journey online, we need to do as good a job as we possibly can to bring rigor to the content that they are subsequently consuming, and we need to do it as well as we possibly can.
“We want to create an environment in which those who are experts and who are authorities are able to elevate the content that they are creating,” the company said.
This is not designed to take the place of seeing your primary care physician.
Dr. Simi Adedeji, a YouTuber who focuses on skin health and women’s health, said that the reason why it’s such a great thing is that you just have time to face some tough themes and talks. “I think the reason why it’s such a great thing is that you just have time to tackle some tricky topics and conversations,” she said.
“I’m able to talk about some of the embarrassing things that women are often too embarrassed to talk about, and that, at times, they were even too embarrassed to bring up in a consultation with their doctor. I’m able to do this because I’m able to talk about embarrassing topics that women are sometimes too afraid to talk about.
“Being able to create content like this makes it really accessible for the audience, and helps in terms of reducing the health anxiety that people might sometimes have, because they are able to have some information that is digestible in easy, understandable language.” [Creating content like this] “makes it really accessible for the audience,”
She is a practicing doctor in the United Kingdom and has been validated on YouTube as part of the scheme. She stated that the system enabled individuals to make decisions on the credibility of health films.
She did, however, caution that neither her content nor the validation tag were “in any way” meant to take the role of consulting a trained medical expert.
She stated, “There is a difference between giving medical education, which is what we are doing, and giving medical advice, which we do not do.” “Giving medical education” is what we are doing. “Giving medical advice” is not what we are doing.
“The purpose of this is to educate the audience on medical topics so that they will feel more in control of their health decisions and will visit their physician as a result.
“This is very much complementary, but it does not replace your consultation with your doctor.”
Confronting misleading information
Now, when consumers search for a health-related topic on YouTube, the top of the search results will first show a “health shelf” – a series of films – which are clearly labeled to be from health sources.
The videos that make up that list will be those that come from reputable sources and have been checked and approved by YouTube.
It is the most recent action taken by the internet giant in its ongoing battle against the dissemination of incorrect information in videos, notably in the area of health.
It comes two years after the company issued a comprehensive ban on disinformation about vaccinations. The total prohibition was the final consequence of months of criticism the company received for its inability to handle disinformation surrounding the Covid-19 immunization.
And research that was published in the BMJ in 2022 discovered that 11% of the most viewed videos on YouTube concerning the vaccine were in direct opposition to the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.
Assurance of validity
Mr. Virani stated to the BBC that the validation of healthcare professionals was accomplished through a “multi-step process” that was based on collaboration with the National Health Service (NHS), the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC), and other stakeholders such as the Royal College of Nursing.
The users of YouTube must hold a valid medical license, and they are not allowed to have published any videos in the past that include any type of misinformation.
Those who upload content to YouTube and then violate the terms of service run the risk of losing their validation status or perhaps having their entire accounts suspended if the violation is severe enough.
And Alastair Henderson, who was the former chief executive of the AoMRC, indicated that things may get even worse than that if validated users purposefully provided incorrect information.
“There is a potential that with their individual professional regulator that this would be an issue,” he said.
The General Medical Council and the Nursing Council have very high standards, and if you were to mislead them or provide them misleading information, you would be in violation of those standards. We have discussed this matter with the regulatory bodies.
And he expressed the expectation that other social media businesses will be motivated to adopt methods that are analogous to his own.
“I would certainly hope that others will follow, and I would assume that if it is clear that this is successful and popular, and the YouTube platform is recognized as high quality and impactful, then others might want to do that as well… but we are not in a position to force them to do so,” the speaker said. “But we are not in a position to force them.”
The BBC has inquired with Meta and TikTok regarding their future plans regarding the implementation of similar verification features on their respective platforms.