More than 80 fact-checking organizations call YouTube’s inadequate ‘response to misinformation

In an open letter to YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki, released on Wednesday, the group said the platform’s current measures to combat misinformation “proved inadequate” and outlined a number of recommended steps to improve its approach, including providing more context and debunks, as well as reducing the ability of disseminators of misinformation to monetize their content on the platform.
The letter comes amid persistent concerns about online misinformation, particularly related to choices and health claims. However, YouTube has generally been subjected to less scrutiny than other technology giants Facebook (now a division of the parent company Meta (FB)), which received a similar letter in November 2016.

“YouTube allows its platform to be armed by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others and to organize and collect money,” the letter reads. “We urge you to take effective action against misinformation and misinformation and to develop a roadmap for policies and product interventions to improve the information ecosystem – and to do so with the world’s independent, non-partisan fact-checking organizations.”

Meta, Twitter and YouTube have all collaborated with fact checkers to some degree over the years. Meta’s efforts, called the International Fact Checking Network, are generally considered to be the most robust, as it relies on 80 fact – checking organizations across 60 languages ​​globally. YouTube, for its part, says it is collaborating with hundreds of publishers to direct users across multiple countries to authoritative information in fact-checking panels.

In a call with journalists prior to the letter’s publication, members of several of the letter’s signatories said they had met several times with representatives of YouTube and the company’s siblings Google to discuss cooperation to combat misinformation, but said the company’s commitments still fell short .

“Nothing is moving, nothing is changing,” Cristina Tardáguila, founder of the Brazilian fact-checking organization Agencia Lupa and senior programming director at the International Center for Journalists, said during the call. “I think the big difference here … is that it’s time to actually push YouTube hard. They’ve been around for a long time.”

In a statement to CNN Business about the letter, YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez called the fact check “an important tool” but “a piece in a much bigger puzzle to counter the spread of misinformation.”

“Over the years, we have invested heavily in policies and products in all countries, we operate to connect people to authoritative content, reduce the spread of cross-border misinformation and remove offensive videos,” Hernandez said. “We’ve seen significant progress in keeping the consumption of recommended cross-border misinformation significantly below 1% of all views on YouTube, and only about 0.21% of all views are offensive content, which we will remove later. We are always looking for meaningful ways to improve and will continue to strengthen our work with the fact-checking community. ”

YouTube has taken some steps to combat misinformation. For example, when users search for “Covid-19” on YouTube, the results page links to information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it first shows videos from authoritative news sources. YouTube has suspended individuals like GOP senators Rand Paul and Ron Johnson for violating their Covid-19 misinformation policies. And it has a year-old strike policy that dictates escalating penalties for repeated violations of its Community guidelines, which prohibit “certain types of misleading or misleading content with serious risk of serious harm”, including harmful health products or content intended to suppress participation in the U.S. Census.

But the fact-checking group says they want YouTube to create a clearer and more consistent system for working with fact-checking organizations. The letter urges YouTube to “publish its full moderation policy regarding misinformation and misinformation, including the use of artificial intelligence, and what data drives it.”

“YouTube’s focus should be on providing context and offering debunks, clearly overlaid on videos or as additional video content,” it states. “It can only come from engaging in meaningful and structured collaboration … and systematically investing in independent fact-checking efforts around the world.”

The letter’s signatories include fact – checking organizations from more than 46 countries, including Africa Check, Philippines Rappler; France’s science feedback; India’s Fact; Colombias Colombiacheck; and FactCheck.org and The Washington Post Fact Checker from the United States. The letter specifically highlights shortcomings in YouTube’s ability to moderate non-English language content, and raised concerns about the cross-border spread of misinformation.

Facebook has language blind spots around the world that allow hate speech to flourish

“We want YouTube to be really serious about languages ​​other than English, countries other than the United States,” said Carlos Hernández-Echevarría, head of public policy and institutional development at fact-checking and social media verification, Maldita. (YouTube’s Hernandez said the platform enforces its policies globally and that its systems work to reduce potentially infringing content and promote authoritative content worldwide.)

The letter also urges YouTube to take action against accounts whose content is repeatedly flagged as misinformation. Proposed actions include removing the ability of such accounts to monetize the content through ads or to point viewers towards external payment platforms and ensure that YouTube’s algorithm does not promote misinformation.

YouTube has said that in 2020 it banned coordinated groups like QAnon and the Proud Boys, known for spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation about voting and elections. The platform says it has taken similar actions in other countries.
In late September, YouTube announced steps to crack down on anti-vaccine allegations. The platform said at the time that it would remove the channels from several well-known vaccine misinformation spreaders and that videos pushing misinformation about currently approved and administered vaccines would be removed and their posters subject to its strike policy. Still, critics questioned why YouTube had waited so long to take such actions.

The letter’s signatories said they hope to meet with Wojcicki to discuss the implementation of their proposal to “make YouTube a platform that really does its best to prevent misinformation and misinformation from becoming weapons against its users and society as a whole. whole. ”

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