YouTube Announces New Moves to Combat Misinformation

Conspiracy theories begone?

Conspiracy theories and misinformation used to be relatively benign affairs involving bigfoot, faked moon landings, and government coverups of UFOs, but those days have changed. 

Modern misinformation efforts seek to disrupt the political process or further complicate the already complicated COVID-19 pandemic, and they spread like wildfire across social media. YouTube, however, has just announced some new moves to limit misinformation on their platform, according to a company blog post.

Someone using YouTube on a MacBook Pro.

Unsplash / Mockup Photos

The uber-popular streaming platform is taking a three-tiered approach to stomping out misinformation. It starts with an improved machine-learning algorithm to catch offending content before it gets a chance to spread. Neal Mohan, YouTube's chief product officer, says they'll also provide videos on certain topics with fact-check boxes. 

Next, there's limiting cross-platform sharing of this misinformation. As you know, Google owns YouTube, and links and embeds of controversial videos are difficult problems to address. Mohan says they are experimenting with various fixes, including adding interstitials, or warnings, to certain videos and limiting shares of others. However, the company is aware that balancing public safety with freedom of expression is an ever-evolving concept. 

"We need to be careful to balance limiting the spread of potentially harmful misinformation, while allowing space for discussion of and education about sensitive and controversial topics," Mohan wrote. 

Finally, there's addressing misinformation in languages other than English. Machine learning comes into play again, as algorithms are being programmed to learn regional and hyperlocal nuances to catch stuff early. Also, YouTube will be hiring "local teams and experts" to tackle misinformation on the street level. 

In January, over 80 fact-checking groups sent a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki to demand the company do something about its misinformation problem. 

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