Montreal YouTuber's 'completely insane' anti-vaxx videos have scientists outraged, but Google won't remove them


A YouTube video by a Montreal “certified naturopath” that critics are calling out for offering “completely insane” advice — including false claims that vaccines poison babies and cause autism — doesn’t violate YouTube’s policies on medical misinformation, according to the Google-owned video giant.

Brittany Auerbach — aka “Montreal Healthy Girl” — incorrectly claims that “viruses” in vaccines inflame brain tissue, that babies under one year of age can’t create antibodies in response to vaccines and that children with autism can have parasites “longer than their bodies” that are expelled when they do cleanses.

Apart from vaccines, a mother can harm her unborn child’s nervous system in several ways, Auerbach falsely claims, including if the mother herself has been vaccinated, if she eats a lot of processed or genetically-modified foods, takes prenatal supplements prescribed by her doctor, drinks fluoridated water or keeps air fresheners in the house.

The theory that vaccines cause autism has been wholly debunked.

The video has outraged scientists with McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, who have investigated “Healthy Girl” in the past, including for a video in which she claimed that “cancer is actually a good thing,” because it’s a warning the body is too acidic.

However, Auerbach, who didn’t respond to the National Post’s request for comment, isn’t a lone wolf. Social media has been a godsend for anti-vaxxers and those pushing pseudoscientific claptrap, researchers say. “And sometimes you have to give these people begrudging credit, because they’re very good at what they do,” said Dr. Joe Schwarcz, director of the Office for Science and Society.

Auerbach is “influential and seductive, and she has a large following,” said Schwarcz. Her top five videos have had more than half a million views. “She can’t just be dismissed as inconsequential.”

“I think she actually believes in what she says, which may be even more dangerous, because she sounds so authentic,” said Schwarcz, who described Auerbach as a “possibly well-meaning, but scientifically confused simpleton with significant potential to do harm.”

Jonathan Jarry, a biological scientist and science communicator with the Office for Science and Society, reported Auerbach’s videos to YouTube for having “hateful and abusive” content. “This could actually endanger the lives of children,” he said. “We’re in the middle of multiple outbreaks of measles. The stuff that she’s saying — which sounds completely insane to my ears — could actually sound quite respectable to some scared parents.”

Auerbach studied  at the Institut de Formation Naturopathique du Québec in 2012-13, an online establishment. Naturopaths aren’t regulated in Quebec.

A disclaimer on her autism video states that it’s meant for “informational purposes” only.

She has absolutely no clue what she is talking about

“She has no expectation of accountability, and it’s true,” said Dr. Clay Travis Jones, a paediatrician at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston. “She will never watch a child with measles encephalitis suffer and die.”

Babies have functioning, although immature, immune systems, he added. They have white blood cells, and they make antibodies. “She has absolutely no clue what she is talking about.”

As well, “There are literally thousands of studies showing that the vaccines currently given to young infants are safe and effective,” Jones added.

Google said it defaults to keeping videos up unless they’re in clear violation of policies around medical information, or contain borderline extremist content or other offensive material. Auerbach’s video, the company noted, includes a disclaimer at the start.

However, Google also said its advertisers are clear about what kind of content they do and don’t want their advertising to run against. Videos that promote anti-vaxx content violate “our longstanding harmful or dangerous advertising policy,” the company said. “We enforce these policies vigorously, and if we find a video that violates them we immediately take action and remove ads.”