The chair of Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee of the UK, Yvette Cooper, has challenged YouTube, saying that its algorithm is not working as it should because it is promoting misinformation that people do not seek voluntarily.
But Cooper is confused.
Cooper’s reason for suggesting this is that when she searches YouTube for the phrase “David Icke” she gets David Icke-related videos. This would suggest that YouTube’s algorithm is working correctly as it provides users with content related to what they’ve searched for or watched, including videos that were also enjoyed by users who have engaged with similar videos.
Lawmakers are notoriously known for not understanding social media and technology but Cooper appeared particularly confused by this.
Speaking at the hearing with Leslie Miller, YouTube’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy, Cooper said that when she searches for author and speaker “David Icke,” she gets recommendations for videos relating to 5G technology and anti-vaccination messaging.
“I searched for David Icke on YouTube, then went back to the homepage. I then searched for 5G, just 5G in. When I went back to my own homepage on YouTube, the top-recommended video for me on my homepage before I got to the authoritative sources on anything, was a conspiracy theory video titled ‘Sickness from 5G cell towers, technology is killing us very slowly.’ So that’s a misinformation video and that’s coming up at the top on my homepage.”
Cooper appears to want YouTube to do more to boost “authoritative sources”, while YouTube’s CEO has admitted that users don’t want them, ignore and don’t engage with them when they’re pushed and even are creating ways to actively avoid them. People go to YouTube because they don’t want mainstream sources.
It’s worth noting that Icke was one of YouTube’s first-ever creators on the platform and was recently banned after a campaign by media outlets and activists.
Icke has recently produced content that talks about what he believes are the dangers of 5G technology and has also spoken out against the idea of mandatory vaccinations. So, if users type in his name, YouTube is going to bring up videos related to this as that’s what people who search for that are interested in.
Cooper is either unfortunately genuinely confused about how algorithms work or she’s feigning confusion and is really wondering why “misinformation” exists at all on the platform.
If it’s the latter, Cooper is going to have a shock when she learns that over 500 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute and YouTube isn’t able to “fact-check” all of that content in real-time.
Instead of calls for censorship, Cooper is just going to have to learn to stop searching for things that she doesn’t want to see and instead maybe search for “Algorithms for Dummies.”