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Fact-checkers around the world point to disinformation on YouTube



Posted on Jan 12, 2022, 1:56 p.m.Updated Jan 12, 2022, 4:04 PM

YouTube blacklisted. More than 80 fact-checking organizations around the world have written an open letter to the video giant, calling for more effective measures to combat disinformation. In this letter (accessible via Poynter), media and NGOs believe that YouTube is “one of the main engines of disinformation in the world” and represents “great concern” for the community of “fact-checkers”.

The signatories, who address themselves directly to the boss of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, represent around forty countries – PolitiFact or the “Washington Post” for the United States, Correctiv (Germany), Africa Check (several African countries)… France, two organizations are signatories: Les Surligneurs and Science Feedback.

A collective of “fact-checkers” also sent a letter of this type to Facebook in 2016, which has implemented several initiatives in recent years.

The collective is particularly worried that YouTube, which belongs to Google, does “not make much effort to implement policies that solve the problem”. Even more, YouTube allows certain “unscrupulous” actors to “manipulate” and “exploit”, or to enrich themselves.

“Fake news” on vaccination

The authors of the post point to videos that have encouraged boycott of vaccination, misinformation about the coronavirus epidemic, or videos of fake cancer treatments, to name but examples in this sector. Likewise in the United States, the invasion of the Capitol in January 2021 gave rise to an explosion of false information.

Admittedly, the “fact-checkers” evoke efforts of YouTube, but that is not enough – in particular in certain countries which remain under the radar of Google.

The organizations propose to collaborate with YouTube by imagining several solutions, such as the establishment of additional information on problematic videos indicating the context, in particular with “fact-checking” specialists.

YouTube responds by claiming to have “invested heavily in policies and products […] to reduce the spread of false information ”. “Much progress has been made,” added YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez in an email, for whom fact-checking is “one piece of a larger puzzle to tackle to the dissemination of disinformation ”.

Removal of videos from “France Soir”, “Sud Radio”, “Current values” …

YouTube, for example, has removed 130,000 videos of medical disinformation since the start of the pandemic. It can range from anonymous videos to the suspension of the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro’s channel.

But also media videos. Thus, the platform has withdrawn videos from “France Soir” or “Current values”, but also from “Sud Radio”. “We are based on a medical consensus, which evolves day by day,” explains YouTube.

In total, across all fields, the group deleted 6.2 million videos in the third quarter of last year and as many in the second quarter.

At the same time, the American giant has chosen to demonetize videos on certain themes, such as climate-skeptical videos – for which it is not possible to have publicity. Or, it sets up information banners directing Internet users to Wikipedia pages, for example on the “great replacement” (as in this video by Eric Zemmour).

Less than 1% of videos

Google, however, indicates that there are less than 1% of problematic videos, according to a study on a body of content.

This open letter comes in a context where the problem of false information is increasingly calling on the general public but also the political world, in the midst of an election period. Tuesday, in France, the Bronner commission returned a report on disinformation to the President of the Republic.

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