Fact-checkers accusing YouTube of being major channel for disinformation

Fact-checkers accusing YouTube of being major channel for disinformation

YouTube is one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide, says the global International Factchecking Network in a letter to Alphabet-owned YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki. The organization says it does not see much of effort from the company to address the problem. The letter, published on Poynter Institute’s website, has around 80 signatories.

“On the contrary, YouTube is allowing its platform to be weaponized by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, and to organize and fundraise themselves. Current measures are proving insufficient. That is why we urge you to take effective action against disinformation and misinformation, and to elaborate a roadmap of policy and product interventions to improve the information ecosystem — and to do so with the world’s independent, nonpartisan fact-checking organizations.”

The network says that it’s been almost two years since the pandemic started: “The world has seen time and time again how destructive disinformation and misinformation can be for social harmony, democracy, and public health; too many lives and livelihoods have been ruined, and far too many people have lost loved ones to disinformation.”

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The network mentions examples of disinformation encouraging people to boycott vaccinations against the covid, promoting false cures for cancer, amplifying hate speech and denying human rights abuses.

“The whole world witnessed the consequences of disinformation when a violent mob assaulted the U.S. Capitol last year. From the eve of the U.S. presidential election to the day after, YouTube videos supporting the “fraud” narrative were watched more than 33 million times.”

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“The examples are too many to count. Many of those videos and channels remain online today, and they all went under the radar of YouTube’s policies, especially in non-English speaking countries and the Global South. We are glad that the company has made some moves to try to address this problem lately, but based on what we see daily on the platform, we think these efforts are not working — nor has YouTube produced any quality data to prove their effectiveness.”

The network offers its assistance and suggests as solutions:

  1. A commitment to meaningful transparency about disinformation on the platform: YouTube should support independent research about the origins of the different misinformation campaigns, their reach and impact, and the most effective ways to debunk false information. It should also publish its full moderation policy regarding disinformation and misinformation, including the use of artificial intelligence and which data powers it.
  2. Beyond removing content for legal compliance, YouTube’s focus should be on providing context and offering debunks, clearly superimposed on videos or as additional video content. That only can come from entering into a meaningful and structured collaboration taking the responsibility and systematically investing in independent fact-checking efforts around the world that are working to solve these issues.
  3. Acting against repeat offenders that produce content that is constantly flagged as disinformation and misinformation, particularly those monetizing that content on and outside the platform, notably by preventing its recommendation algorithms from promoting content from such sources of misinformation.
  4. Extend current and future efforts against disinformation and misinformation in languages different from English, and provide country- and language-specific data, as well as transcription services that work in any language.
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