"Act Against Disinformation": FactCheckers Write To YouTube CEO

The open letter written by 80 global fact checkers lists several examples of videos on YouTube which have caused real harm in real life

More than 80 fact-checking organisations from more than 40 countries have written to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcinki urging her to take corrective steps to ensure the company does not become "one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide".

The signatories of the letter include BOOM Live, Politifact, Africa Check, Maltida and LUPA among others. Indian signatories also include The Quint, Vishvas News, India Today Group, Newsmobile, Newschecker, THIP Media, Fact Crescendo, Factly, The Logical Indian and Youturn.in.

The letter lists several examples of videos on YouTube which have caused real harm in real life, yet went unnoticed under YouTube's content policy.

In the last year, conspiracy groups have thrived and collaborated across borders, including an international movement that started in Germany, jumped to Spain and spread through Latin America, all on YouTube.

Meanwhile, millions of other users were watching videos in Greek and Arabic that encouraged them to boycott vaccinations or treat their COVID-19 infections with bogus cures. Beyond COVID-19, YouTube videos have been promoting false cures for cancer for years.

In Brazil, YouTube has been used to amplify hate speech against vulnerable groups, reaching tens of thousands of users.

Elections are not safe either. In the Philippines, false content with over 2 million views denying human rights abuses and corruption during the Martial law years are being used to burnish the reputation of the late dictator's son, one of the candidates in the 2022 elections.

In Taiwan, the last election was marred by unsubstantiated accusations of fraud. The whole world witnessed the consequences of disinformation when a violent mob assaulted the U.S. Capitol last year. From the eve of the U.S. presidential election to the day after, YouTube videos supporting the "fraud" narrative were watched more than 33 million times.

The fact-checkers urged YouTube not to frame the debate as a false choice between deleting or not deleting videos stating that available evidence supports the effectiveness of providing fact-checked information instead of deleting videos.

This, the fact-checkers say, preserves freedom of expression while mitigating the risks of harm to life, health, safety and democratic processes.

The organisations have listed four urgent demands to Wojcinki and YouTube.

  1. Exercising meaningful transparency about how disinformation travels on the platform and publicly disclose its policies to address it.
  2. Focusing on providing context instead of deleting videos. This can be done by setting meaningful and structured collaboration with fact-checking organizations and investing in their work.
  3. Acting against repeat offenders who produce content that is constantly flagged as disinformation and preventing their videos from being recommended or promoted by the company's algorithms.
  4. Extending those efforts to languages different from English, and providing country- and language-specific data, as well as effective transcription services.

The group is willing to engage with YouTube and expects a meeting with Wojcinki to implement the demands and ensure YouTube becomes a "platform that truly does its best to prevent disinformation and misinformation from being weaponized against its users and society at large".

Updated On: 2022-01-12T16:09:19+05:30
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