YouTube may have blind spots for misinformation, researchers say

Ahead of the midterm election, disinformation watchdogs say they are concerned that what has been described as YouTube’s aggressive attempt to combat misinformation on Google’s own platform has developed blind spots. They are particularly concerned about YouTube’s TikTok-like service, which offers very short videos, and the platform’s Spanish-language videos.

But the situation is difficult to understand clearly, more than a dozen researchers said in interviews with The New York Times, because they have limited access to data and because examining videos is time-consuming.

While Facebook and Twitter are scrutinized for misinformation, YouTube has often flown under the radar, despite the video platform’s broad influence. It reaches more than 2 billion people and is home to the second most popular search engine on the web.

YouTube banned videos alleging widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election, but it didn’t implement a similar policy for the midterms, a move that drew criticism from some watchdogs.

YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi said the company disagreed with some criticisms of its work to combat misinformation. “We have invested heavily in our policies and systems to ensure we successfully tackle election-related misinformation with a multi-pronged approach,” Choi said in a statement.

YouTube said it removed a number of videos the Times flagged for violating its spam and election integrity policies, noting that other content did not violate its policies. The company also said it removed 122,000 videos containing misinformation from April to June.

YouTube committed $15 million to hire more than 100 additional content moderators to help with Brazil’s midterm and presidential elections, and the company has deployed more than 10,000 moderators around the world, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss personnel decisions.

YouTube is also struggling to curb Spanish-language misinformation, according to research and analysis by Media Matters and Equis, a nonprofit focused on the Latino community.

Almost half of Latinos turned to YouTube weekly for updates, more than any other social media platform, said Jacobo Licona, a researcher at Equis. Those viewers have access to a wealth of misinformation and one-sided political propaganda on the platform, he said, with Latin American influencers from countries including Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela infiltrating US politics.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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