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YouTube’s exec discusses “Intelligence Desk” to target emerging conspiracy theories

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Over the last few years, YouTube has aggressively censored what it deems to be conspiracy theories and misinformation.

And now, YouTube’s Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan has revealed that its Intelligence Desk, an initiative that was launched in 2018 to proactively police “inappropriate or offensive content,” is being used to target content that might be classed as a conspiracy theory or misinformation in the future.

Mohan discussed this tool during an interview with Protocol’s editor at large David Pierce and described how this Intelligence Desk is being used in the context of the coronavirus:

“This is a team of professionals who actually try to look kind of just over the horizon if you will in terms of where a conspiracy might be coming from, where misinformation might be coming from, so that we can do our best to sort of stay ahead of something that might be emerging before it becomes a challenge on our platform.”

Mohan didn’t elaborate on how YouTube is looking over the horizon or how it determines when something might be emerging but said that this Intelligence Desk tool has “come in handy” when it comes to striking content about the coronavirus and 5G.

According to previous reports on the Intelligence Desk, it uses a combination of “Google data, user reports, social media trends, and third-party consultants to detect inappropriate content early, and either remove it or prevent advertiser messaging from appearing near it.”

In the interview, Mohan also said that YouTube has increased its pace of enforcement and taken more action on more videos amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, Mohan stated that YouTube is now changing its enforcement guidelines 2-3 times per week.

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Mohan’s comments come as YouTube has greatly restricted what users are allowed to say about the coronavirus in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, the platform censored a popular London Real interview with author and public speaker David Icke as part of a newly introduced rule where: “Any content that disputes the existence or transmission of COVID-19, as described by the WHO [World Health Organization] and local health authorities is in violation of YouTube policies.”

And after announcing this rule, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki took it one step further and said anything that goes against the WHO is a violation of YouTube’s policies.

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