As part of its ongoing push to combat health-related misinformation, YouTube has added features designed to prioritize authoritative content from credible sources, such as hospitals, governmental groups and medical schools.

The move comes at a tenuous moment in the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called on tech and social media companies to tackle health misinformation, noting that the proliferation of misleading content could lead to avoidable illness and death.

As part of the updated approach, YouTube will clearly label health content that is credible.

“For this particular product feature, we wanted to move forward in terms of how the tech industry – not just YouTube, but certainly YouTube being a forward-leaning part of it – elevates credible health information,” said Dr. Garth Graham, global head of healthcare and public health partnerships at YouTube. “We need to define what credible, authoritative health information is.”

Dr. Garth Graham. Photo: Fernando Leon/Getty Images for YouTube.

To that end, YouTube has tapped guidance from the National Academy of Medicine and recent principles it released focused on combating misinformation.

“They pulled together a panel of experts to inform this overall thought pattern – what’s authoritative, what’s credible,” Graham explained. “The next phase of this for us will be applying this concept to individual creators outside of institutions.”

Indeed, the YouTube rollout will rely on partnerships with hospitals and health organizations like the Cleveland Clinic, Mass General Brigham and the American Public Health Association. Content from credible sources, such as state health departments, public health schools and medical journals, will be clearly labeled as such. Meanwhile, information focused on major health conditions will be organized on a content shelf.

“The overall idea is to give people a place, cues and concepts that we know that can drive them to find trusted information and to feel a little more confident that information is coming from a source that is credited or reliable,” Graham said.

Not surprisingly, Graham characterized the pandemic as a major motivating factor. He pointed out that terms (“messenger RNA”) and phrases (“flattening the curve,” “vectors for transmission”) have become more commonly used outside of their usual public-health context during the last year and a half.

“That’s a big part of this effort – this idea of how to take complicated public health information and deliver it in digestible, understandable ways,” Graham said. “The idea is to inspire the world to think through how we reach people. We certainly encourage researchers and folks working in media, marketing and communications to get out credible health information.”