YouTube pledges to boosting “authoritative sources” during 2020 election

Independent creators fall, legacy outlets rise.


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Google seems to have assumed a role in the US electoral process, and it is one that is designed to “support” the upcoming 2020 vote.

Google anticipates that as the November elections near, more and more people will be turning to its giant video platform, YouTube, “to learn about the candidates and watch the election season unfold.”

With this mind, YouTube VP of Government Affairs and Public Policy Leslie Miller said in a blog post that this social media platform now wants to be “a more reliable source for news and information.”

The post details some of the ways YouTube intends to achieve this: remove content violating its policies, reduce the spread of misinformation related to elections, and “recognize and reward campaigns, candidates, and political creators” on “both sides of the aisle.”

One of the efforts that YouTube will focus on, however, might prove to be particularly controversial: “Raise up authoritative election news,” and also, promote “quality journalism.”

Two questions emerge immediately: how does YouTube “raise” news, and perhaps more importantly, how does YouTube decide what’s an authoritative source?

The blog post sheds some light on the first, but none on the latter issue.

What is an authoritative source, how is it distinguished from an unauthoritative one, what qualifies for quality journalism, and how publishers may “apply” to be recognized as such – none of these quandaries are addressed here.

Instead, the post wants the reader to assume and accept that the chosen sources are indeed authoritative.

With this out of the way, YouTube explains that the “raising” process, as expected, has to do with directing search queries and recommendations towards a preferred set of news and news sources.

MORE: Legacy media outlets admit colluding with Google and Facebook to remove “misinformation”

This is referred to as authoritative ranking treatment – but YouTube promises to further “improve and expand” its systems.

In addition to this, the platform has introduced features of varied levels of usefulness: labeling videos as government or public-funded, and adding reminders that “developing news can rapidly change.”

And YouTube says it’s been successful in these efforts: channels of those it treats as authoritative news partners saw 60 percent growth in the past year alone, as users are increasingly steered in their direction.

Choosing to cite 2018 US midterm and 2019 EU parliamentary elections as examples, the blog post said YouTube put “party affiliation and district” above the actual search results for candidates, at the same time highlighting their YouTube channels.

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Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]