YouTube Enacts New Policies to Fight Misinformation Ahead of 2020 Elections
YouTube has been long accused of 'radicalizing' people via what is known as the 'YouTube rabbit hole'. The company has made repeated efforts to counter disinformation on its platform and even resorted to 'fact-checking' videos it deemed as fake. With the 2020 presidential election around the corner in the US, YouTube just announced some new rules surrounding fake news on the platform, and has the following to say:
As the 2020 election season kicks into high gear in the United States, people will visit YouTube to learn about the candidates and watch the election season unfold. Over the last few years, we’ve increased our efforts to make YouTube a more reliable source for news and information, as well as an open platform for healthy political discourse. Here is an overview of how this work helps us to better support elections.
One of the most common techniques to spread disinformation is via maliciously doctored recordings. YouTube says that is will delete any content that "has been technically manipulated or doctored in a way that misleads users and may pose a serious risk of egregious harm". Like Facebook, it will also come down hard on videos that mislead users about voting or the census processes. Additionally, videos that make false claims about a candidate's eligibility to run will also be deleted.
YouTube will recommend more authoritative news sources as a part of the campaign
YouTube claims that a lot of misinformation campaigns originate from small, unverified channels. That's why the platform will now push more mainstream media outlets to the front as opposed to individual creators. For example, the GIF above shows vetted sources such as the BBC on top of the search results for Brexit. The move will very likely be devastating for independent political commentators, as their videos will be suppressed by the algorithm.
The company has also started providing short previews of text-based news articles in search results. If you look up a candidate, YouTube will now show you a panel that will specify their political affiliation, district and more above search results. There are even Top News and Breaking News sections to highlight 'quality' journalism. There's a whole list of other changes that will recognize and reward campaigns, candidates, and more. You can read more about it on Google's official blog here.
Will these new policies actually help combat the spread of fake news? They could or could not. Is this another case of a private company acting as a gatekeeper for public discourse. Yes. This isn't the first time we've seen something like this happen, and looking at the current state of affairs, this is going to be a regular occurrence in the future.