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Fact checkers: YouTube fails on fake news

January 12, 2022

YouTube spreads disinformation and misinformation worldwide and is not doing enough to tackle fake news on its platform, according to a global coalition of fact checking organisations.

A letter signed by more than 80 groups, including Full Fact in the UK, says the platform is hosting content by groups which spread Covid misinformation, and videos supporting the “fraud” narrative during the US presidential election.

“YouTube is allowing its platform to be weaponised by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, and to organise and fundraise themselves. Current measures are proving insufficient,” states the letter to YouTube’s chief executive, Susan Wojcicki, which describes YouTube as a “major conduit” for falsehoods.

The letter urges YouTube to make four changes to its operations: a commitment to funding independent research into disinformation campaigns on the platform; providing links to rebuttals inside videos distributing disinformation and misinformation; stopping its algorithms from promoting repeat offenders; and doing more to tackle falsehoods in non-English-language videos.

The fact checkers state that YouTube’s failure to tackle disinformation and misinformation is especially marked in the global south, a term that refers to nations in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

YouTube said the company had invested heavily in policies such as reducing the spread of “borderline” misinformation, a term for content that comes close to – but doesn’t quite cross the line of – breaching the platform’s guidelines.

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

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