Right-leaning creators produced the majority of high-performing YouTube videos about abortion following the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. A study published Wednesday by NARAL Pro-Choice America found that medical disinformation—like claims that abortion is unsafe—are “frequently” in the first 10-20 results when you search for “abortion.”
“They put the desire to keep people clicking and watching over accurate information,” Dina Montemarano, NARAL Pro-Choice America research director, told Jezebel by Zoom.
The study monitored the highest-performing videos mentioning abortion that uploaded to YouTube in January and February. Researchers then added the 50 most viewed abortion videos published over the eight-week period between the Supreme Court decision leak in May and subsequent decision publication in June. The report found that YouTube attempted to “promote reliable and medically accurate information” for the first five results for “abortion,” but if someone searched “abortion procedure” or “abortion pill,” they would have found videos that had medical disinformation or propaganda within the first 10–15 search results.
Beyond the direct misinformation, the study found that anti-abortion content acts as an on-ramp to even more extreme views. “When I think about someone who is on YouTube and maybe they had heard something in the news and they look up a term, then that person could be led down that path toward more extreme, more outliers,” Montemarano told Jezebel.
On July 21, YouTube announced it would “remove content that provides instructions for unsafe abortion methods or promotes false claims about abortion safety,” nearly a month after Roe v. Wade was overturned. But within a week of that announcement, researchers still found results with medical disinformation when searching “abortion reversal” and “abortion breast cancer.”
Montemarano would like to see actual penalties for medical misinformation about abortion. Videos that promote false claims about abortion should be removed, even if they’re uploaded by political actors or influencers. “They should be penalized for spreading inaccurate disinformation, regardless of if they’ve wrapped their comments in a political bow,” she said, suggesting a strike system. “I would love to see [abortion misinformation spreaders] deplatformed.”
YouTube and its parent company, Alphabet (aka Google), did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment.