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YouTube has gotten caught up in the latest backlash that Facebook found itself embroiled in over “fake news” and other questionable practices. There is no doubt that “fake news” that crept into Facebook posts before the 2016 presidential election has put all social media executives on warning. Social media platforms intent on delivering news items are scrambling to manage this problem.
How YouTube Ended up in the Spotlight Over “Fake News” Claims
Unfortunately, YouTube has good reason to worry. The New Republic reported a tragic “fake news” incident that occurred in February 2018, when a YouTube video was posted about one high-profile student gun control advocate made famous after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. The “fake news” incident depicted gun control advocate David Hogg as a fraud and an actor hired to speak out as a gun control spokesman. The video went viral, promoted via search engine optimisation (SEO) principles that favour videos on “hot topics.”
When the problem was identified, the video was finally removed. It was deemed to violate YouTube’s harassment policy. The “fake news” video was used to misrepresent the facts. The truth about the news clip was finally revealed to be a local news interview where Hogg was interviewed for a news story. This interview was mistakenly taken out of context and exploited as proof that Hogg was a crisis actor.
When the truth came out, YouTube described the mistake as a fluke. YouTube spokespeople blamed this incident on misclassification of the video, explaining that the footage came from what was considered an authoritative news source, so it was inadvertently allowed to play. YouTube went on to promise that they were trying to improve internal systems to prevent these types of mistakes.
YouTube and Wikipedia Partner in a Fight Against “Fake News”
Digiday reports that in March 2018, YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki announced the company’s intention to partner with Wikipedia as a measure to prevent the spread of “fake news”. The plan is to link conspiracy-oriented YouTube videos with related Wikipedia content as a sort of quality control action designed to add a “check and balance” element into the news mix. It is noteworthy that Wikipedia was not notified before the announcement according to Digiday.
YouTube Pledges to Clean Up Its News Videos
Months after that first announcement in March 2018, CNET reports that $25 million is being invested into the fight against fake news in early July 2018. The game plan includes YouTube showing links to different articles related to the news along with disclaimers that remind the audience that details in developing stories can change. Text from Wikipedia and other sources like the Encyclopedia Britannica that are considered less likely to be challenged for accuracy will also be added to news videos so that viewers have more information at their disposal.
An alternative strategy already being utilised is to feature videos from news organisations. This tactic is being used in 17 countries at present, which includes the U.S. CNET reports that there are plans to double the number of countries reached by these new news features.
Teen Audience Education
In something akin to offering user instructions, YouTube has embarked on a mission to educate teens about digital literacy. Top YouTube creators have been asked to help educate the teen community. Notable partners involved in this effort are Stanford University, the National Association for Media Literacy Education, Poynter Institute and Google News Initiative.
Social media hit one of its first major roadblocks as “fake news” threatened to disrupt these platforms that allow the public to post news with very little if any oversight. This problem came to the forefront over the past year, putting Facebook’s and YouTube’s leadership on the frontline to fight accusations of “fake news” reporting. YouTube is making strides to combat the “fake news” problem by partnering with established news agencies and sites like Wikipedia to try their best to report the facts. Coupled with an effort to educate teens about how best to interpret information, these steps promise to improve YouTube’s platform and show the company’s commitment to the truth.