A group of more than 80 leading fact-checking organizations around the world are pressing YouTube to take action against COVID misinformation, which still exists on the platform two years into the pandemic.
“As an international network of fact-checking organizations, we monitor how lies spread online – and every day, we see YouTube as one of the leading mediums of online disinformation and misinformation around the world. ,” a coalition of fact checkers wrote in one open letter published on poynter, “This is a significant concern among our global fact-checking community.”
The collection of fact-checking organizations that signed the letter is spread around the world, including US-based groups such as Politifact, The Washington Post Fact Checker and Poynter MediaWise, Africa’s Dubwa and AfricaCheck, India’s Fact Crescendo and Factly. and many other organizations from countries. Including Indonesia, Israel and Turkey.
The group notes that health misinformation has long found fertile ground on the video-sharing site, which includes content encouraging cancer patients to fight their conditions with unscientific treatments.
“In the past year, we have seen conspiracy groups flourish and cooperate across borders, including an international movement that began in Germany, jumped to Spain and spread to Latin America,” the letter said. Gone, all on YouTube,” the letter said. “Meanwhile, millions of other users were watching videos in Greek and Arabic that encouraged them to boycott vaccinations or to treat their COVID-19 infections with bogus cures.”
The letter also highlights the particular dangers of dissemination of misinformation in non-English language videos. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen drew attention to parallel concerns over the platform, which does not equally invest in content moderation outside of English-speaking countries. The fact-checking group encourages YouTube to provide “country- and language-specific data, as well as transcription services that work in any language” to push back against the flow of misinformation in languages beyond English , on which the company focuses its moderation methods. ,
Fact-checkers don’t just present problems—they offer solutions, too, pointing out that the company should create far greater transparency around its misinformation and disinformation policies and support independent researchers who specialize in those issues. The group also urged YouTube to intensify its efforts to weed out misinformation and provide immediate context on the platform, two strategies that could be accomplished by deepening its work with fact-checking organizations.
While Facebook and Twitter have long faced intense public scrutiny for the spread of misinformation on their platforms, YouTube often manages to fly under the radar. Its recommendation algorithm has played an active role in promoting dangerous claims in recent years, but because the platform, like TikTok, is video and not text-based, it is usually for researchers to conduct studies and for lawmakers to conduct technical accountability hearings. It’s more difficult to wrap your head around.
“YouTube is allowing its platform to be used by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others and to arm themselves with systematization and fundraising,” the group wrote. “The current measures are proving to be insufficient.”