YouTube urged to do more to combat false information

By: Rob Corbidge, 14 January 2022

Google-owned video platform again comes under pressure to tackle fake news and misinformation from global fact-checking alliance.

YouTube "is allowing its platform to be weaponized by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, and to organize and fundraise themselves" according to an open letter signed by a global coalition of fact-checking groups.

The video giant is urged to "take effective action against disinformation and misinformation, and to elaborate a roadmap of policy and product interventions to improve the information ecosystem" in the letter published this week, which requests open co-operation from YouTube with independent, non-partisan fact-checking organisations.

The letter requests a four point commitment from YouTube:

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.

It seems extremely unlikely that YouTube would accede to such demands, especially allowing any third party organisations to scrutinise its processes for deciding what material is acceptable on the platform and what is not.

Responding in a statement, YouTube's spokesperson Elena Hernadez said YouTube "invested heavily in policies and products in all countries we operate to connect people to authoritative content, reduce the spread of borderline misinformation, and remove violative videos.” Saying fact checking was "a crucial tool to help viewers make their own informed decisions,” yet qualifying the statement by adding that it is "one piece of a much larger puzzle to address the spread of misinformation."