On YouTube, fact-checking associations denounce “rampant disinformation”

Signed by media from around 40 countries, an open letter urges the video-sharing platform to fight disinformation more effectively.

Is YouTube playing the disinformation game? On Wednesday January 12, more than 80 fact-checking organizations around the world sent a open letter to company management. Objective: to ensure that the Google subsidiary brings more effective measures to fight against fake news. “Every day we see that YouTube is one of the main vectors of online disinformation in the world” thus details the letter. Made up of media and NGOs based in forty countries, the signatories now hope to bend YouTube, accused of not doing “a lot of efforts” to solve the problem.

For its part, the platform does not see it that way. In its public response to the accusations, YouTube says it has “Heavily invested in policies and products (…) to reduce the spread of false information”. It must be said that in recent years, the site has become the place of choice for conspirators and fake news. Between anti-tax theories and videos calling for the return to power of Donald Trump, the signatories are now worried about a “Rampant disinformation”, largely accelerated by the pandemic.

Despite the efforts of the company which has removed more than a million videos in recent months, several conspiratorial documentaries still remain very popular, and YouTube struggles to tackle problematic content. A few months ago the film Hold Up on Covid-19 generated more than two and a half million views, before being finally removed from the platform.

Determined to make Alphabet listen to reason, the NGOs now say they are ready to “Engage with YouTube to make their proposals a reality”. To achieve this, they list several avenues of work, and in particular the opacity of algorithms, the impunity of “recidivist” accounts that repeatedly spread false information, but also the presence of many non-English speaking videos, which regularly go under the radar of the site’s moderation tools.

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