Youtube will start showing “information boxes” — brief fact-checking bits that debunk some of the most common and dangerous scientific misconceptions. In some areas, Youtube is already showing this type of box for conspiracy theories; now, it will be expanding it to other types of sensitive topics like vaccination.
The feature is currently available in India, one of Youtube’s largest markets with over 250 million users. Millions of people in India are gaining access to the internet for the first time — this, coupled with cheap data plans, have brought forth an explosion in video streaming. People are more prone to rely on video streaming instead of reading or using other social media, using Youtube as a search engine and binging everything they come across.
The video explosion has brought forth an explosion of disinformation. In the US, Youtube now shows Wikipedia excerpts next to conspiracy theory videos — a necessary step, but still a small step in the grand scheme of things. Now, the Google-owned video giant wants to take another small step and include fact-checking boxes next to misleading videos on sensitive topics.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to build a better news experience on YouTube, we are expanding our information panels to bring fact checks from eligible publishers to YouTube,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
According to Buzzfeed, several human fact-checking services have already been contacted by Youtube. Some of these services are already working with Facebook to curb disinformation. The tech giants are resorting to human oversight as at least so far, automated fact-checking has proven incapable of being doing a reliable job.
It’s not entirely clear what type of video this will appear next to. The spokesperson cited the recent conflict between India and Pakistan as a potential source of misinformation. As an example, he showed an explosion in Syria that someone was trying to pass off as a Pakistani attack against Indian soldiers.
However, the company has still not announced a timeline where a similar feature will be released in the rest of the world. Considering that it’s a service provided manually, scalability seems like a major issue. Misleading videos (and misleading information in general) have emerged as a major issue worldwide in the era of post-truth, one which social media giants are partially responsible for — and one for which there is no clear solution in sight.
Youtube has also recently announced the demonetization of all anti-vax channels, citing broader policy against the monetization of videos with “dangerous and harmful” content.
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.