The movement against fake news posted on YouTube

MMore than 80 verifier organizations from more than 40 countries have submitted a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, to ask that the platform stop “allowing unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, in addition to raising money.” They want to fight fake news on the platform.

The company, owned by Google, has usually been left out of the criticism for disinformation that networks such as Facebook or Twitter have received. The publication of the text comes after representatives of the organizations have met three times in recent years with YouTube with similar requests that have not yet been answered.

Among the signatory organizations there are the three main Spanish, Damn. es, Newtral and Verificat. One of his main requests is that the YouTube platform apply the same level of effort to all non-English languages. Among the signatories are Agencia Lupa (Brazil), La Silla Vacía (Colombia), Facta (Italy), PolitiFact (USA), Chequeado (Argentina), Full Fact (United Kingdom), Political Animal (Mexico) or Rappler (Philippines) , founded by the recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa.

Two basic requests

The two central requests of the letter are, first, greater transparency about misinformation on YouTube so that external actors, such as academic researchers, can measure the origin and scope of disinformation campaigns. And second, better collaboration with these fact checker organizationsso that platform users have more context in the face of possible false claims.

“The way that context should appear is not defined,” he explains. Carlos Hernandez-Echevarria, in a virtual pre-publication press conference that a group of organizers held with journalists from around the world. “It could be for example with images superimposed on the video with a link, but we are open to consensus and testing what works best,” he adds.

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The organizations do not hide that with this letter They also ask YouTube to finance their work: “it is not a problem for me to admit it”, he says Cristina Tardáguila, from Lupa Agency. “This is the most difficult battle of our time, we are very small and we are in charge of fighting disinformation on huge platforms. We need a financial agreement because we have a lot of work and we are very fewin Brazil we will be about 50 people in the organizations of fact checkers”, he adds.

In the meetings they have had with YouTube to improve the relationship, the company has not committed Nor has he given clear answers. “With this step we try to escalate this to higher levels within the company,” says Tardáguila.

What does YouTube say?

A Youtube spokesperson, Elena Hernández, has responded to the letter. “Fact-checking is a crucial tool to help users make their own informed decisions, but it’s one piece of a much larger puzzle in tackling disinformation,” she explains.

“In recent years, we have invested heavily into policies and products in every country we operate in to connect people with content from authoritative sources, reduce the spread of border-crossing disinformation, and remove infringing videos.” “We will continue to strengthen our work with the fact-checking community.”

From the company they remember that already have collaborated with US$1 million with the International Network of Verifiers, to which many of the signatory organizations belong.

Specific examples of fake news on YouTube

The letter cites several examples of disinformation distributed by YouTube, from cases linked to the pandemic such as the Spanish doctor Natalia Prego, to bogus cancer cures or political lies in Taiwan, Philippines. Also about the alleged “big lie” of the US elections that President Joe Biden won. The challenge is different depending on the area and the country.

In Brazil there are, for example, channels accused of misinformation with millions of subscribers and views, such as Os Pingos Nos Is or Alexandre Garcia. In Spain some of the channels often shown as examples, such as Rafapal, El Vortice or Here the voice of Europe, are much smaller.

In the letter they also denounce the “false dichotomy” between deleting or not deleting the content. By resorting to that debate, YouTube thus avoids doing what is “proven to work,” the letter says: “showing proven information is more effective than deleting content” and also “preserves freedom of expression.”

Practices required by organizations

Another requirement is for YouTube to better control which channels and videos appear in its recommendation algorithm. A panel with information from verified publishers appears in YouTube searches in some countries.

There is also, although presented in a different way, information verified by organizations of fact checkers. It is a system called ClaimReview that allows organizations that wish to add a few lines of code to their pieces so that the search engine automatically detects and displays them.

It is a tool used by Google or Bing, in addition to YouTube, although it works unevenly on the video platform. “Each organization decides if they add those lines of code on their page and thus appear from time to time on YouTube. But that does not imply that there is a collaboration program with YouTube, at least as far as I know”, says Tardáguila.


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The movement against fake news posted on YouTube