Over 80 fact-checking organizations slam YouTube ‘insufficient’ response to disinformation

In an open letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki published on Wednesday, the group said the platform’s current measures to tackle disinformation “are proving insufficient” and presented a series of recommended measures to improve. its approach, including providing more context and demystification, as well as reducing the ability of disseminators of disinformation to monetize their content on the platform.
The letter comes amid continuing concerns about misinformation online, particularly regarding elections and health claims. YouTube, however, has generally come under scrutiny than its tech giant colleague Facebook (now a division of the parent company Meta (FB)), who received a similar letter in November 2016.

“YouTube allows its platform to be militarized by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, and to organize and finance themselves,” the letter read. “We urge you to take effective action against disinformation and disinformation, and to develop a roadmap of policy interventions and products to improve the information ecosystem – and to do so with verification organizations. independent and non-partisan facts of the world. ”

Meta, Twitter, and YouTube have all associated with fact checkers to some degree over the years. Meta’s effort, named the International Fact Checking Network, is generally considered the most robust as it relies on 80 fact-checking organizations in 60 languages ​​around the world. YouTube, for its part, says it works with hundreds of publishers to direct users in multiple countries to authoritative information on fact-checking panels.

In a call with reporters ahead of the letter’s publication, members of several of the letter’s signatories said they have met on several occasions with representatives from YouTube and sister company Google to discuss the collaboration to combat the misinformation, but said the company’s commitments were still insufficient.

“Nothing moves, nothing changes,” Cristina Tardáguila, founder of Brazilian fact-checking organization Agencia Lupa and senior director of programming at the International Center of Journalists, said during the call. “I think the huge difference here … is that it’s time to put some heavy pressure on YouTube. They’ve been around for a long time.”

In a statement to CNN Business about the letter, YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez called fact-checking a “crucial tool” but “piece of a much larger puzzle to combat the spread. disinformation “.

“Over the years, we’ve invested heavily in policies and products in every country we operate to connect people to authoritative content, reduce the spread of borderline disinformation, and remove abusive videos,” Hernandez said. . “We’ve seen significant progress, keeping the recommended disinformation consumption limit well below 1% of all views on YouTube, and only about 0.21% of all views are non-compliant content which we later remove. . We are always looking for meaningful ways to improve and will continue to strengthen our work with the fact-checking community. ”

YouTube has taken action to combat disinformation. For example, when users search for “Covid-19” on YouTube, the results page links to information from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it first shows videos from authoritative information sources. . YouTube has suspended figures such as GOP Senators Rand Paul and Ron Johnson for violating its disinformation policies on Covid-19. And it has a years-old strike policy that dictates increasing penalties for repeated violations of its community guidelines, which prohibit “certain types of deceptive or deceptive content posing a serious risk of flagrant harm,” including harmful remedies for the environment. health or content aimed at suppressing participation in the US Census.

But the fact-checking group says it wants YouTube to create a clearer and cohesive system for working with fact-checking organizations. The letter calls on YouTube to “publish its policy of full moderation regarding misinformation and disinformation, including the use of artificial intelligence and the data that feeds it.”

“YouTube should focus on providing context and offering demystifications, clearly superimposed on videos or as additional video content,” he says. “It can only come from meaningful, structured collaboration … and systematic investment in independent fact-checking efforts around the world.”

Signatories to the letter include fact-checking organizations from more than 46 countries, including Africa Check, the Philippine Rappler; The Scientific Return of France; Factly from India; the Colombiacheck from Colombia; and FactCheck.org and The Washington Post Fact-checker from the United States. The letter specifically denounces the shortcomings of YouTube’s ability to moderate non-English content and raises concerns about the cross-border spread of disinformation.

“We would like YouTube to be really serious about languages ​​other than English, countries other than the United States,” Carlos Hernández-Echevarría, head of public policy and institutional development at Maldita, fact-checking and social media check. (YouTube’s Hernandez said the platform enforces its policies globally and its systems work to reduce potentially abusive content and promote authoritative content around the world.)

The letter also calls on YouTube to take action against accounts whose content is repeatedly flagged as disinformation. The proposed actions include removing the ability of these accounts to monetize this content through advertisements or direct viewers to external payment platforms, and ensure that YouTube’s algorithm does not promote misinformation.

YouTube said that in 2020 it banned coordinated groups such as QAnon and the Proud Boys, known to broadcast conspiracy theories and misinformation about voting and elections. The platform claims to have taken similar measures in other countries.
In late September, YouTube announced measures to crack down on vaccine claims. The platform said at the time that it would shut down the channels of several well-known vaccine disinformation broadcasters and that videos disseminating disinformation about currently approved and administered vaccines would be removed and their posters subject to its policy. of strike. Yet critics have wondered why YouTube has waited so long to take such action.

The signatories of the letter said they hoped to meet Wojcicki to discuss the implementation of their suggestions to “make YouTube a platform that really does its best to prevent misinformation and misinformation from being militarized against. its users and society as a whole “.

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