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YouTube to combat fake news with links to real news and context

Written by  Jul 10, 2018

YouTube, like its parent company Google and others, has been chided for its platform being used to spread misinformation.

In addition to tackling hate speech and inappropriate content of all kinds, the company is now also trying to fight fake news across its platform. In an official blog post, YouTube outlined a few new features coming to its website and app that it hopes will give users more context about big and breaking new stories.

The feature that users will be able to see today comes in the form of info cards atop YouTube search results. These cards will display information from third-parties, including Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, about certain historical and scientific topics that have been subject to misinformation and conspiracy theories—think events like the Moon landing or the Oklahoma City bombing.

It's likely that most conspiracy theory videos like these don't violate YouTube's community guidelines or terms of service, so the company cannot take them down. YouTube's hope is that providing more information about such topics will prevent users from getting wrapped up in videos that deliberately present false information.

A preview of YouTube's context cards that appear in search results.

 A preview of YouTube's context cards that appear in search results.
YouTube

In the coming weeks, YouTube will introduce similar info cards to news-related search results. When users search for videos about a big event or a breaking news story, a snippet of a published article from a third-party news source will appear at the top of the search results. Users can click the link to the full article to get more details on the story, and YouTube will remind users that the story may be "still developing" before it displays the video search results. This feature is based on the idea that journalists usually write a breaking new story before producing and uploading a video about it, so details are more likely to be accurate in written content than in video content (at least at first).

As part of YouTube's recent initiative, the company pledged $25 million to support journalism expertise and publishers on the platform. YouTube will also work with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, Local Media Association, and the National Association for Media Literacy Education to support MediaWise to help teens develop media literacy skills.

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YouTube has been piling on the changes and new features ever since the ad-pocalypse of last year. While that situation focused on terroristic content and hate speech, numerous social media companies have come under fire for their promotion of fake news in various ways. On YouTube, propaganda videos and conspiracy theories abound. Earlier this year, YouTube started labeling videos uploaded by state-funded broadcasters to let viewers know that the video they're watching is, at least in part, government-funded.

We're not at the point where YouTube will label videos as "fake news," and we probably never will be. Instead, YouTube's strategy is to bring in other sources of information to give users more context about historical and news events. YouTube doesn't want to be seen as promoting fake news, even if its algorithms may push conspiracy-theory videos up to the top of search results. Now with these new features, outside sources that may be more accurate should appear before or alongside even the most popular conspiracy-theory videos.

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