Fact-checkers write open letter urging YouTube to get serious about COVID misinformation


Two years after the COVID epidemic began, a collection of more than 80 major fact-checking groups from across the globe is urging YouTube to take action against COVID disinformation, which is still prevalent on the site.

According to a coalition of fact-checking organizations in an open letter published on Poynter, “as an international network of fact-checking organizations, we monitor how lies spread on the internet — and every day, we see that YouTube is one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide.” According to our worldwide fact-checking community, this is a severe source of worry.

Global fact-checking organizations, including groups based in the United States such as PolitiFact, The Washington Post Fact Checker, and Poynter’s MediaWise; African organizations such as Dubawa and Africa Check; India’s fact-checking organization’s Fact Crescendo and Factly; and many more organizations from countries such as Indonesia, Israel, and Turkey; are represented among those who signed the letter.

In addition, the organization points out that the video-sharing site has long been a breeding ground for health-related disinformation, with footage pushing cancer patients to battle their ailments, with dubious therapies being a particular standout.

As the letter notes, “in the previous year, we have seen conspiracy organizations flourishing and coordinating across borders, including an international movement that began in Germany, moved to Spain, and expanded across Latin America, all via YouTube.” While this was going on, millions of additional people were viewing films in Greek and Arabic that urged them to refuse vaccines or treat their COVID-19 diseases with fraudulent remedies,” the statement said.

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The letter also emphasizes the unique hazards of misinformation spreading through videos, not in English or foreign languages. Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, brought attention to similar problems on the social media site, which, like Facebook, does not spend equally in content moderation outside of English-speaking nations. To combat the spread of misinformation in languages other than English, the fact-checking group encourages YouTube to “provide country- and language-specific data, as well as transcription services that work across all languages” to counteract the flow of misinformation in languages other than English, on which YouTube focuses its moderation methods.

The fact-checkers don’t only point out problems; they also propose remedies, such as the need for the firm to be significantly more transparent about its misinformation and disinformation policies and independent fund researchers who specialize in such areas. Also urged by the group is for YouTube to scale up its efforts to refute disinformation and give immediate context to its platform. These two strategies might be done by increasing its collaboration with fact-checking groups.

While social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have long been subjected to heavy public scrutiny to disseminate false material on their platforms, YouTube has managed to remain mostly unnoticed. The platform’s recommendation algorithm has played a significant role in promoting potentially dangerous claims in recent years. Still, researchers and lawmakers conducting tech accountability hearings have found it more challenging to understand because the platform is video-based rather than textual.

As the organization put it, “YouTube is enabling its platform to be weaponized by unethical individuals to influence and abuse others, as well as to organize and generate funds for themselves.” “The current methods are proven to be ineffective.”

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