YouTube has taken the latest step in its crusade against so-called misinformation by adding fact-checks and hoax alerts to search results in India.
According to BuzzFeed News, these fact-checks and hoax alerts are currently being shown to some users in India and will eventually be shown to YouTube viewers worldwide.
These fact-checks and hoax alerts will be displayed in “information panels” on search result pages for topics that YouTube and its fact-checking partners deem to be “prone to misinformation.” According to the Times of India, these fact-checking partners will include BOOM, Quint, Factly, AFP, and Jagran.
YouTube cited search results for the recent conflict between India and Pakistan as one example of a topic that would have fact-checks or hoax alerts displayed alongside its search results. When YouTube changed its algorithm to reduce recommendations of so-called “content that could misinform,” it also cited phony miracle cures for serious illnesses, claiming the earth is flat, or blatantly false claims about historic events as examples of misinformation. So, it's likely that these topics will also receive a fact-check or hoax alert panel on their search result pages.
YouTube has made no secret of its intentions to police content on the platform this year and has already changed its algorithm to suppress content it deems to be misinformation. This introduction of more fact-checks and hoax alerts is the next stage of controlling what you see on the platform.
The problem with these fact-checkers is that they often spread the fake news and misinformation that they claim to be protecting users against. They also almost always designate mainstream media companies as trusted sources while labelling independent content creators as untrustworthy. This allows mainstream media companies to decide what's true and causes any content that challenges their so-called truths to be labelled “fake” or a “hoax.”
We can see the dangers of this by looking at what happened to the Covington kids. NewsGuard, a browser-based fact-checking extension, gave many of the mainstream news outlets a trusted green rating which showed up on their fake news about the Covington kids. Independent outlets that called out this fake news and truthfully reported on the events were often given a red untrustworthy rating by NewsGuard. These supposedly trustworthy mainstream media outlets are now being sued for spreading false and defamatory information about the Covington kids, yet they're allowed to be the arbiters of truth on NewsGuard and online platforms such as YouTube.
Unfortunately, this dangerous trend of fact-checking content is on the rise. NewsGuard has already partnered with Microsoft to integrate NewsGuard into the mobile version of the Microsoft Edge browser and Facebook has stepped up its fact-checking efforts in recent months.
It's more important than ever to fight back against this manipulative tactic. You can do this by going directly to alternative media outlets and supporting free speech-focused alternative tech instead of relying on YouTube and the other big tech giants to tell you what's true.