Fake news and Conspiracy theories have been an inextricable part of the pseudo-news outlets and chumboxes. But, this has aggravated lately with the boom of social media news feeds, instant message forwards, and a new crop of visual journalism through video-hosting websites like YouTube. To tackle this, YouTube has added fact-check panels to its search results or the Watch page.
This is pertinent to the current pandemic related searches. It would surface above and below your search results for topics like “COVID-19 is a bioweapon” or “covid and ibuprofen” or “did a tornado hit Los Angeles.” So you see this is applicable to specific searches that are borderline fake or conspiracy.
In its official page, Google notes,
“In response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), you may see info panels featuring links to learn more about COVID-19. In some places, you’ll see info on COVID-19 in local languages that links to local sources, such as health ministries and centers for disease control.”
These will be pure facts irrespective of the opinions or perspectives expressed in the videos.
Countries where the info panel is available
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
YouTube will roll out the feature to more regions in the future.
You’ll also see links to the WHO, CDC, and local health authorities on the search result page.
Now, due to pandemic restrictions, YouTube has resorted to AI and machines to sift and moderate content on the platform.
“Because there’s a lot of action taken by these machines, sometimes those appeals are impacted in terms of our response time. But generally speaking, we’ve been able to manage this,” said Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer.
In an interview with Vox, Karen Douglas, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Kent said, “Conspiracy theories flourish in times of crisis, which is obviously the case here. They tend to surround big events that require big explanations [because] small explanations are unsatisfying.”
The Vox article, which is BTW a good read, does a deep dive into the functioning of conspiracy theories and their subsequent propagation. The article presents an apt angle to the ongoing theories surrounding Covid-19:
Conspiracy theories tell us about ourselves — what we believe or doubt, and what we fear most. The conspiracy theories that surround the coronavirus pandemic are no different, centering on existing concerns about globalization, new technology, and perhaps our most ancient horror: disease. But in the case of Covid-19, conspiracy theorists got an added boost: from political leaders as desperate to believe the conspiracies as they were.
A conspiracy theory is merely a conspiracy unless proven otherwise. Innit? Hopefully, the measures taken by Google and other responsible parties bring about a positive shift in news consumption.