YouTube is exploring new measures to prevent videos that include misinformation to spread on the platform. Neal Mohan, the Chief Product Officer of YouTube detailed the challenges posed by “borderline” videos that don’t violate YouTube’s CGUs but can still be responsible for making misinformation go viral.
Being one of the rare Internet platforms with billions of users, YouTube has been trying to keep a balance between free expression and its responsibility to remove fake news and problematic content. “We faced these challenges early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, such as when a conspiracy theory that 5G towers caused the spread of coronavirus led to people burning down cell towers in the UK. Due to the clear risk of real-world harm, we responded by updating our guidelines and making this type of content violative,” explained Mohan.
However, what the YouTube exec sees as “borderline” videos are starting to become a big issue for YouTube. “These are videos that don’t quite cross the line of our policies for removal but that we don’t necessarily want to recommend to people,” explained the YouTube CEO. If the company can update its algorithms to stop recommending borderline videos to users, these videos can still get some views if they’re being shared or embedded on websites.
This is where things start to get really complicated for YouTube. As of today, Mohan said that YouTube isn’t ready to go as far as disabling the share button or breaking the link on borderline videos, because “preventing shares may go too far in restricting a viewer’s freedoms.” As an alternative, YouTube is considering adding interstitials to borderline videos that would let viewers know before they start watching that the video may include misinformation.
“We’ll continue to carefully explore different options to make sure we limit the spread of harmful misinformation across the internet,” the YouTube CEO said. This is definitely a complex problem for the platform which operates in over 100 countries with very different cultures. “Beyond growing our teams with even more people who understand the regional nuances entwined with misinformation, we’re exploring further investments in partnerships with experts and non-governmental organizations around the world,” Mohan also announced.
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