Implement transparency, punish violators of fake news: the global fact-checking body writes on YouTube

Time and time again, India has paid the price for disinformation on social media intended to widen the dividing lines between different social and religious groups, and even to stir up unrest.

While some social media giants, such as Facebook, have at least put in place a mechanism to control the free flow of hate and disinformation, other popular platforms, such as YouTube, still have a long way to go. .

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By some estimates there are almost 46 million YouTube users in India. This means that one in three Indians access the platform for content related to entertainment or news. But the fact that there are no checks and balances over the type of information being disseminated on YouTube makes it a lucrative forum for rumor sellers who generate income through deceptive click bait.

This has forced global fact-checkers to take note, and now the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) has written to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in this regard. The letter, dated January 12, 2022, urges the social media platform to implement policies to control the flow of disinformation and also suggests measures to that effect.

Sample them.

Hundreds of anti-vaccination sermons have been watched on YouTube by millions of users around the world, including India. Many fake Covid cancer cures still flood the platform. The repercussions have been heavy for governments and health workers in the fight against the pandemic.

Misinformation about government programs or content targeting specific communities, especially during elections, manages to get free passage on YouTube. Unsurprisingly, such videos influence people’s minds a lot, which hurts Indian social security.

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In such a scenario, it is imperative that YouTube filters the content being served on the platform. For disinformation is a global threat, as evidenced by the infamous United States Capitol Riots early last year.

The IFCN letter called YouTube “one of the main vectors of online disinformation and disinformation in the world.” He says, “What we don’t see is a lot of effort on YouTube’s part to implement policies that solve the problem. On the contrary, YouTube allows its platform to be armed by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, and to organize and finance themselves.

The letter lists how YouTube has been the go-to platform for global conspiratorial groups from Europe to Latin America, and the unfounded accusations of US voter fraud in Taiwan. It also expresses its concern at the many hateful content targeting vulnerable groups or those who try to whitewash the crimes committed by dictators and strong men in the army.

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“The examples are too numerous to count. Many of these videos and channels remain online today, and they have all gone under the policy radar of YouTube, especially in non-English speaking countries and countries in the South, ”the letter said.

Expressing annoyance with YouTube’s approach to disinformation, the letter further states, “Your company’s platform has so far presented discussions of disinformation as a false dichotomy between deleting or not. – content removal. By doing this, YouTube avoids the possibility of doing what has been proven successful: our experience as fact-checkers as well as academic evidence shows us that bringing up verified information is more effective than removing content. “

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“And since a large portion of views on YouTube come from its own recommendation algorithm, YouTube should also make sure that it doesn’t actively promote misinformation to its users or recommend content from untrustworthy channels,” he added.

The IFCN then suggested a series of measures for YouTube to verify the dissemination of fake news on the social media platform. Seeking “a commitment to meaningful transparency on disinformation on the platform,” he suggested: “YouTube should support independent research into the origins of different disinformation campaigns, their reach and impact, and the most effective means. to demystify fake news. It should also publish its policy of full moderation on disinformation and disinformation. “

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Highlighting YouTube’s’ misplaced priorities’, the letter states: ‘Beyond removing content for legal compliance reasons, YouTube should focus on providing context and offering demystifications, clearly superimposed on videos. or as additional video content. This can only come by engaging in meaningful and structured collaboration, taking responsibility and consistently investing in independent fact-checking efforts. “

He also called for action against “repeat offenders who produce content consistently flagged as disinformation and disinformation, especially those who monetize this content on and off the platform, including by preventing its recommendation algorithms from promoting content. content from such sources of disinformation ”.

The letter called on YouTube to “expand current and future efforts against disinformation and disinformation in languages ​​other than English, and provide country and language specific data, as well as transcription services that work. in any language “.

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The letter was signed by fact-checking organizations around the world. India Today Group, which has a dedicated Anti Fake News War Room (AFWA) fact-checking department, is also among the signatories.

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