After recently ramping up its efforts to remove videos that include 'medically unsubstantiated' claims about COVID-19 from its platform, YouTube has now announced another element in its push to reduce the distribution of coronavirus conspiracy theories, with the expansion of its fact-check pop-up alerts on searches that are prone to misinformation.
As you can see in this example, the new 'independent fact check' alerts will appear on searches related to topics that have seen significant misinformation, or have been debated by official review sources. YouTube partners with various fact-checking organizations to review such claims, and the alerts aim to help reduce the spread of misinformation by providing alternate links to authoritative sources.
As explained by YouTube:
"Our fact check information panels provide fresh context in these situations by highlighting relevant, third-party fact-checked articles above search results for relevant queries, so that our viewers can make their own informed decision about claims made in the news."
YouTube first launched its fact-check pop-ups a year ago for users in Brazil and India, but they'll now also appear for users in the US, as YouTube continues to work to counter false claims and misinformation campaigns relating to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Indeed, with many people in the US becoming increasingly frustrated by the coronavirus lockdowns, alternative narratives are gaining momentum. New stories are emerging about the origin of the virus, the cause of the outbreak, and how its spread across the world. YouTube has had to implement specific measures to reduce the distribution of 5G signal rumors and false cures, and the list of counter-stories around the virus continues to expand.
And for YouTube specifically, it's important to take action on such.
In order to combat the virus' spread, people need accurate, timely information, and increasingly, people are turning to social media - and YouTube specifically - for news content.
According to Pew Research, YouTube is now the second most common social media news resource for US adults, with some 21% of people getting at least some news content on the platform.
As such, it's important for the platform to act where it can - while research also shows that these types of fact-check prompts can be effective in "reducing false news sharing intentions by diminishing the credibility of misleading information".
People are increasingly skeptical online, and with the mass media often being accused of distributing lies in order to support corporate agendas, the capacity for false narratives to gain momentum is arguably greater than ever among modern consumers. And with social platforms providing a vehicle to amplify such, there's a clear motivation for questionable operators to use platforms like YouTube and Facebook to gain traffic to their websites by stoking fears and fueling dissent.
And while that can also be healthy, to a degree, in holding political leaders to account, it can also be hugely damaging - and in the case of a pandemic, when accurate information is key to reducing the spread, it can be deadly, on a large scale.
As such, its good to see YouTube beefing up its efforts, and looking to limit the flow of misinformation where possible.