Thursday 22nd November 2018

YouTube aims to combat ‘misinformation’ by adding disclaimers to content

Jason Smith
by on 2nd February 2018

In the latest in a spate of announcements about clampdowns on certain types of content, including Facebook’s ban on cryptocurrency ads and Google’s decision to hire an additional 10,000 people to police its content policies, YouTube has today announced it will add disclaimers to videos to make users aware of content published by news broadcasters that ‘receive some level of government or public funding’.

The update will only initially apply to users in the USA, however YouTube plans to roll it our more widely in future.

YouTube states that the disclaimer will appear below the video – in the same manner an advertisement appears now – and will link through to a Wikipedia entry so the viewer can discover more information about the broadcaster.

In doing so, YouTube has implicitly acknowledged that openly-editable Wikipedia is a trusted source of information, despite a never-ending series of reports and examples of vandalism on popular pages.

The announcement makes no mention of the particular organisations likely to receive disclaimers, and one example which has been discussed is that of the BBC which while Government-funded is deemed editorially independent.

According to the Wall Street Journal, video content from Russian broadcaster Russia Today will feature the disclaimer “RT is funded in whole or in part by the Russian Government” while PBS videos will include the disclaimer “publicly funded American broadcaster.”

The development is a reaction to endless criticism from Governmental officials about the role of social media in influencing opinion. It particularly relates to criticism the online publisher has received about facilitating the publishing of ‘misinformation’ during election cycles and extremist or objectionable content.

YouTube’s Chief Product Officer Neil Mohan went on to tell the WSJ “The principle here is to provide more information to our users, and let our users make the judgment themselves, as opposed to us being in the business of providing any sort of editorial judgment on any of these things ourselves.”

He also told the WSJ, in an apparent contradiction to his statement about editorial judgement, that YouTube may begin to “show relevant videos from credible news sources” as a compliment to videos promoting conspiracy theories.

He doesn’t seem to deem selecting news sources, or rather accentuating certain news sources at the expense of others, is in itself exercising “editorial judgement”.