YouTube, according to Fact-checkers, is considered a “major channel of online disinformation”.

By Alistair Coleman
BBC Monitoring

Image source, Getty Images
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Groups of fact-checkers claim that YouTube’s content causes harm in real life

International fact-checking groups claim that YouTube doesn’t do enough to protect misinformation.

Around 80 people signed an agreement to send a collective letter to Susan Wojcicki (Google-owned platform chief executive).

It is described as “one the main conduits of online misinformation and disinformation globally”.

They want YouTube and other social media platforms to do more against disinformation about elections and videos that are anti-vaccine.

The signatories come from Europe, Africa Asia, Asia, Middle East and Americas.

What is the purpose of this letter?

In the open letter, it states that lives have been destroyed and that too many people have lost their loved ones due to disinformation.

YouTube was accused by the group of making insufficient efforts to remedy the problem. It said that YouTube allowed its platform to become a weapon for unscrupulous actors who manipulate and exploit others.

It says that the problem becomes more complicated when false content does not originate from English or is in other languages.

It lists worldwide examples that have the potential for real-life damage, and it was caught by YouTube’s policy makers. They are not adequate and do not work, the letter states.

Fact-checking groups called for:

  • Engagement to be transparent about the disinformation that is posted on the platform
  • Instead of deleting videos and ignoring context, you should include more information.
  • Recurring offenders will be dealt with
  • An increased effort is being made to correct misinformation in languages that are not English

YouTube must also improve its recommendation algorithms, the letter states. This is to make sure it doesn’t “actively promote disinformation to users or recommend content from unreliable sources”.

Elena Hernandez, spokesperson at YouTube, told The Guardian that company is already investing in “to connect people and authoritative content, decrease the spread of misinformation borderline, and eliminate violative videos”.

She said, “We are always searching for meaningful ways of improving and will continue our strengthening work with the fact checking community.”

Realism and harms in the real world

YouTube has been plagued for years with fake news and conspiracies.

They include hate speech and election fraud. Critics claim platforms have not done enough to counter disinformation. The result has been injuries, death, and breakups of families.

A British man died last year from Covid-19 poisoning after refusing to get vaccinated. His family claims that he made the “terrible error” of being affected by anti-vaccine online content.

Brian Lee Hitchens was a Florida taxi driver who lost his wife Covid-19 to Covid-19 in 2020. He had been influenced and manipulated by Facebook content that suggested the pandemic could be a hoax.

YouTube declared last year it was going to remove anti-vaccine misinformation and also deleted videos by Brazilian President Jairbolsonaro. These videos spread misinformation regarding coronavirus.

Will Moy, chief executive of Full Fact, told BBC that he had asked YouTube for independent fact-checkers in order to enhance the information environment.

Bad information can ruin lives. Full Fact is like all fact-checkers worldwide and has witnessed examples of dangerous content on YouTube,” said he.

YouTube and other internet companies have been permitted to complete their homework. The internet cannot leave it up to companies to choose what information to use or how transparent.


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