YouTube’s censorship policy around the pandemic has been notoriously erratic – in the early days, videos were demonetized for mentioning the very word, as if in an attempt to suppress what was becoming a controversial health topic.
And controversy means a lot of pressure from politicians and media, and a lot of time and money spent on damage control. But as the crisis exploded to unprecedented levels, YouTube and its ilk understood – explicitly or implicitly, we’ll never know – that they are allowed to employ pretty much whatever control and/or censorship technique they have in their arsenals and even overstep some bounds.
Big Tech has “long been reluctant to intervene in questions of content moderation” The Verge says, living on another planet, and now seems to commend the giants for becoming much more aggressive.
YouTube’s Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan revealed that YouTube these days likes to combine automated systems with human “raters.” As for how YouTube deals with “elected officials spreading misinformation,” Mohan replied that guidelines apply to everyone:
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“It also applies to comments and any other surface, if you will, on the YouTube platform,” Mohan said. “And so they’re not about the speaker. The policies apply equally, whether you or I say something, an elected official does, or a national leader does. This crisis is no different.”
But referring, as the article does, to what is currently happening on giant social networks in terms of suppression of content and speech as being “much more aggressive” might be an understatement.
The report documents YouTube’s descent into this current information suppression: first there was promotion of “trusted” (aka, “authoritative”) sources, removal of anything that is deemed as misinformation, favoring corporate media and their “high quality breaking news” by giving them more and more exposure, and relentlessly, to the tune of billions of clicks, driving traffic towards government sources and the World Health Organization (WHO).
But YouTube is not stopping there, as the behemoth has joined Facebook in adding none other than fact-checkers into the mix.
Articles published by a network of fact-checkers are given a prominent place in users’ search results, in the shape of informational panels. This experiment was first introduced in India (to shape the narrative around elections in that country) and in Brazil, and has now arrived in the United States.