Back in September, software engineer Mark Ledwich explored in depth the results of YouTube’s policy announced in early 2019 targeting such things as “conspiracy theories” and how Google’s recommendations algorithm might work to lock people into something apparently much worse than wasting their time down the habitual random content rabbit hole.
In his carefully crafted Medium piece trying to make sense of the “woke” media, Google’s apparently algorithmic “butterfly effect” on the world, and “winners and losers” in this chaotic space in terms of the way YouTube might or might not favor them with its recommendations algorithm – some of the winners, as of the last fall at least, included corporate – i.e., mainstream media. Those had apparently made good use of their YouTube presence, always at the expense of independent creators.
Meanwhile, “deep-state conspiracy” channels were marked as losers here, with research indicating YouTube wanting, and succeeding, in limiting their promotion.
In his article, Ledwich also mentioned Becca Lewis, the author of a study looking into the AIN (Alternative Influence Network) that includes channels like Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, Tim Pool, and Destiny.
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According to Ledwich’s findings in September, their YouTube recommendations dropped from 7.8% to 0.4% – while Lewis was said to be celebrating this achievement and also mischaracterizing many of the listed YouTubers as being ideologically “alt-right.”
What a difference a few months make, though – as the very same Lewis is now denouncing “all of YouTube” – Google’s very own video giant, and not just its recommendations algorithm – as no more than “far-right propaganda.”
It’s true: Rebecca Lewis, whose findings have effectively been debunked by Ledwich a few months prior – is now having another go at propping up the story of YouTube’s harmful right-wing ideological influence.
Although this time, the debunked researcher goes all the way – it’s not just the algorithm, she says.
“We don’t actually need to understand the recommendation algorithm to still know that YouTube is an effective source of far-right propaganda,” Lewis writes.
But it gets worse – according to Lewis, who quotes her own research – to say that YouTube could remove its recommendation algorithm “entirely tomorrow and it would still be one of the largest sources of far-right propaganda and radicalization online.”
But when the author refers to as “the actual dynamics of propaganda on the platform” as being more messier and complicated than anything she’s apparently ready or able to handle – what are we even talking about here? If it’s not YouTube somehow algorithmically hell-bent on promoting the right wing – and if it’s not the author trying to deflect from the real problem – namely, the actual, purported left-wing bias on the platform – then what is it?
“Specifically, when we focus only on the algorithm, we miss two incredibly important aspects of YouTube that play a critical role in far-right propaganda: celebrity culture and community,” Lewis writes.
So now we’re blaming… the modern equivalent of reality TV? Sounds great.