If YouTube’s Algorithm was an Editor, Trump’s Campaign Would Hire Them

Search “Dominion” on YouTube, 11/27/2020
  1. Identify “Data Voids” and mitigate in “real time”: it is a “whack-a-mole”, but also pretty basic to implement. A more hands-on approach, with a bit more human and machine brain power could help activate a quick response. Sometimes it seems YouTube and other Silicon Valley actors fail to acknowledge the gravity of the issues on the line. In 2020, it is a threat to our public health and U.S. democracy. It is hard to imagine more serious scenarios - if this doesn’t shake them, what will?
  2. Better contextualization: one of the advantages of YouTube is the ability of creators to contextualize their videos as they want. But this provides a great tool to escape from reality and facts, which, in many cases, is a dangerous path. During this election, YouTube made some efforts and put a disclosure under videos with information from AP. Perhaps it should make more efforts to give context. It can apply the “Redirect Method” in an attempt to give viewers a better sense of reality. Importantly, at least part of this contextualization should be in the video (before, during or after), as many of the viewers see videos embedded in other websites. For some, it won’t be enough. But it could prevent others from falling into the rabbit hole.
  3. Provide independent researchers and journalists with access to more YouTube data: media articles criticizing YouTube’s handling of misinformation often use the measurements of “number of views” and “engagement on social media”. Those benchmarks are important, but they are also the only free available ones (and the last one, courtesy of Facebook/CrowdTangle). Cross-platform influence might be very different from how we perceive it given our data is partial. YouTube could do much more for researchers, which, in turn, would help the platform better identify and remove or limit disinformation efforts. Providing researchers with tools that help identify emerging narratives, sources of traffic to misinformed videos and trending footage and channels might help not just society at large, but YouTube itself, in identifying approaches and tools to more efficiently detecting misinformation and disinformation efforts.
    There is an inherent tension between social media platforms on one side, and the journalists and communication researchers who cover them on the other, especially as legacy media sees social media as a competitor. The history of attempts to collaborate is not all positive (see Facebook’s “Social Media One” experiences as an example) but considering the level of threats and growing political pressure, YouTube can and should do more to serve its users, creators and advertisers.
  4. Finally, the company could benefit from creating tools to identify synthetic and doctored content (for itself and for users and researchers). When the next deceptive Joe Biden video emerges, they will be prepared.



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Diving into digital rabbit holes since 2010.