Opinion: YouTube should emulate Twitter's Community Notes to curb misinformation
At the height of COVID-19, YouTube became one of the leading sources for all sorts of information regarding the pandemic — be it true, fake, misinformation or even some propaganda.
As governments and world health organizations pushed for everyone to get vaccinated, sections of the public were utterly against it. And they were hell-bent on justifying their course at whatever cost.
Social media was perhaps the easiest way to air their dissent and reach other anti-vaxxers across the globe. And with the global viewership that YouTube commands, using it was a no-brainer.
The many viral YouTube videos that campaigned against vaccines exacerbated fear among others, even at some point propelling a passenger to request for the removal of another unvaccinated passenger from a plane.
This and other events forced YouTube to introduce a mechanism to help curb the spread of what was at the time seen as misinformation and fake news against COVID vaccines.
The so-called information panels were meant to provide more information or rather context about COVID-19 videos uploaded on YouTube with the aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and fake news.
In response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), you may see information panels with links to learn more about COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccine info. In some places, you’ll notice COVID-19 info or COVID-19 vaccine info in local languages with links to local sources, such as health ministries and centers for disease control.
Of course, views have since changed regarding vaccination protocols around the globe, but this hasn’t stopped other videos of fake news and propaganda from appearing on YouTube.
In fact, fake news and misinformation on YouTube didn’t start with the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has been grappling with this issue for years with no proper solution.
Today, the only mechanism that YouTube has put in place to fight the spread of fake news on the platform is the “4 Rs” principles.
we remove content that violates our policies, reduce recommendations of borderline content, raise up authoritative sources for news and information, and reward trusted creators
But even with these efforts, many across the globe believe YouTube isn’t doing enough to fight misinformation on the platform.
The company’s community guidelines state that “certain types of misleading or deceptive content with serious risk of egregious harm” will be banned from the platform, but there’s still plenty of harmful videos doing rounds.
Deepfakes have interfered with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and even recent US elections. In fact, a 2022 Google Transparency Report revealed that 89% out of the nearly 4 million channels removed in Q2 2022 were spam, misleading, and scams.
Also, 122,000 videos (not channels) were purged due to violation of YouTube’s misinformation policies. Furthermore, a mindboggling 458,784,993 comments (61%) were removed from “spam, misleading, and scams” videos.
Sections have labeled YouTube a major conduit for fake and inaccurate information. And while Google has put across some measures to curb this trend, I think these interventions aren’t doing enough.
I was a fan of the information panels that gave more context to COVID-19 videos on YouTube. With this feature, it was easy not to waste time on a video that may end up adding no value.
These panels contained basic info from independent 3rd-party sources complete with backlinks to necessary sites for further reading. What’s even more bold about these panels is they appear regardless of the video’s opinions.
Unfortunately, this function remains elusive in some parts of the globe, but YouTube says it’s working to bring it to more countries/regions.
Unless you just woke up, this is something similar to what Twitter is offering with Community Notes. However, unlike YouTube, Twitter’s Community Notes are generated by other notable people on the platform.
Contributors can leave notes on any Tweet and if enough contributors from different points of view rate that note as helpful, the note will be publicly shown on a Tweet.
While YouTube’s information panels are generated based on how prone a subject is to misinformation, Community Notes on Twitter are contributions from actual people with different perspectives over a given subject.
To ensure the process is transparent, Twitter made the “Community Notes algorithm open source and publicly available on GitHub, along with the data that powers it so anyone can audit, analyze or suggest improvements.”
This isn’t true for YouTube’s information panels, which is perhaps why the platform is still struggling to curb misinformation since everything mostly relies on server-side actions.
While it’s unlikely that YouTube will be doing anything major to combat such videos (after all, they still bring in revenue), they could take more responsibility and accountability by emulating Twitter’s Community Notes.
Of course, this could reduce YouTube’s daily interactions or even put some channels out of business, but it could also bring some much-needed sanity in this day and age of misinformation.
Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section and vote on the poll below as well.
Featured image: YouTube
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