Nigerian YouTube health content creators may soon be made to go through a verification process in a bid to forestall the proliferation of misinformation in the space of healthcare. This is so because YouTube has unveiled a verification system designed specifically for healthcare professionals. The system is currently been tested in the United Kingdom.
This initiative comes as health-related videos garnered over 3 billion views on the platform within the UK in 2022 alone, highlighting the growing need for credible and trustworthy sources of medical information on the internet.
Doctors, nurses, and psychologists have been invited to apply for the scheme since June, 2023 to gain validation. However, in gaining validation they must meet some strict criteria established by the platform. Those who successfully meet these requirements will be given a badge under their username, signifying their status as genuine, licensed healthcare workers.
Vishaal Virani, who leads health content for YouTube, said it was important simply due to the sheer number of people accessing healthcare information on the video-sharing platform.
“Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, whether the health industry is pushing for it or not, people are accessing health information online,” he said. “We need to do as good a job as possible to bring rigour to the content that they are subsequently consuming when they do start their care journey online.”
“We want to create an environment where those who are experts, who are authorities, are able to elevate the content that they are creating.”
It has not been specified when or if the scheme will be available to other users worldwide. However, given the increasing prevalence of healthcare content on the platform, medical content creators globally may need to prepare for its expansion.
The validation process
The validation process for healthcare professionals on YouTube is thorough. For now, in the UK, it involves collaboration with institutions like the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) and the NHS, as well as input from the Royal College of Nursing. To be eligible, YouTubers must possess an active medical license and must not have previously shared videos containing false medical information.
Failure to adhere to the platform’s rules could lead to the revocation of validation status or even the suspension of the YouTube account, particularly in cases of egregious violations.
Alastair Henderson, former CEO of the AoMRC, emphasized that healthcare professionals who deliberately provide false information could face repercussions from their respective professional regulators, such as the General Medical Council or Nursing Council.
“There is potential that with their individual professional regulator, this would be an issue,” he said. “We’ve talked to regulators about this – being deceptive or providing false information would breach the expectations of the General Medical Council or Nursing Council.”
He also hopes that other social media companies will be inspired to take up similar practices.
“I would certainly hope that others will follow and I would assume if it’s clear that this is successful and popular and the YouTube platform is recognised as high quality and impactful, others might want to do that too… but we are not in a position to force them.”
What this could mean for Nigerian health content creators
If YouTube’s verification program in the UK proves successful, it may encourage the platform to expand similar initiatives to other countries, including Nigeria. This would also offer Nigerian healthcare content creators the opportunity to seek official validation for their work. In turn, it will give credibility to the information being dished out to users.
Although still limited to the UK, the new system introduced by YouTube would mean that content creators in the country would have to become more aware of the importance of credibility and accuracy in their content. There would be a conscious need to adhere to higher standards to maintain or improve their reputation or risk losing their account with the platform.
Since the validation process is influenced by the quality of previous content on the site, content creators on the platform, particularly those in the health education field, should be cautious about sensitive topics and the information they publish currently.
Also, it means there is the possibility that YouTube would have to partner with various health institutions in the country to properly validate health practitioners on the platform. It is therefore advisable that health content creators acquire some validity from local health institutions to maintain their presence and validate their work.
Whatever the decision of the video platform may be concerning expansion or regulation, it is important that creators proactively work on producing reliable and informative content to benefit their local and global audiences.
Dr Simi Adedeji, a practising doctor in the UK and a YouTuber focusing on skin and women’s health, emphasized that the validation tag is meant to empower viewers with medical education, not replace professional medical advice.
As a practising doctor in the UK, who has been validated on YouTube as part of the programme, she said the system allowed people to make judgements on the trustworthiness of health videos.
“There’s a difference between giving medical education – which is what we’re doing – and giving medical advice – which we don’t do,” she said. “It’s about giving medical information so that the audience feels empowered and can then go and see their doctor.”Dr Simi Adedeji
While YouTubers like Dr Adedeji can delve into sensitive and often overlooked health topics, their content should complement, not supplant, consultations with medical experts. The intention is to make health information more accessible to viewers.
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