Ask Americans about the war on drugs and most will tell you illicit drug use is a health problem, not a crime. They’ll tell you “getting tough” failed and the best approach for problem usage is treatment and compassion, not censure. Why do diseases of the mind, then, not invite the same response? There is a powerful push by elites to purify social media platforms of misinformation, with a lack of interest in underlying causes, a lack of concern for unintended consequences, and a lack of humility in their ability to determine Truth. I’m worried that the war on misinformation…

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki described YouTube’s COVID-moderation policy to CNN in April

anything that would go against WHO recommendations would be a violation of our policy [and will be removed].

These statements give us a window into the closed process of how YouTube assesses trustworthiness — not by evaluating content, but by the institutional status of who is publishing it.

They have promoted this view consistently:

… for subjects such as news, science and historical events, where accuracy and authoritativeness are key, the quality of information and context matter most — much more than engagement. …

In 2018, Kevin Roose published a piece in the New York Times in which Caleb Cain, a liberal college dropout, described his experience of being radicalized by “a vortex of far-right politics on YouTube.” Caleb was a victim — as the theory goes — of the YouTube recommendation algorithm, which guides users down an “alt-right rabbit hole” of increasingly extreme far-right political content in order to maximize watch time and keep people glued to the site. …

painting of an algorithmic god parsing judgment on channels

In January 2019, YouTube announced that they will be cracking down on conspiracy theories by changing search results and suggested videos to reduce the spread of “borderline content”, that “comes close to — but doesn’t quite cross the line of — violating our Community Guidelines”. This includes suggestions to videos “promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness” or “making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11”, that could “misinform users in harmful ways”. This came after repeated criticism from the mainstream media that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is an engine for far-right radicalization and fake news.

It is…

YouTube recently released its year-in-review “Rewind” video, showcasing 2018’s notable trends and highlights on the platform. It was a jam-packed montage of YouTube stars, Fortnite references, and talk of Youtube’s diversity and inclusiveness. What could go wrong?

Rather than encompass for fans the year in YouTube culture, it is now the most disliked video in the platform’s history. It garnered over ten million dislikes in the space of eight days. To put that into perspective, the second most disliked video — Justin Bieber’s 2010 song “Baby” — managed to achieve just under that amount in the space of eight years.

Mark Ledwich

Software Engineer. Insatiable reader and podcast listener. Interested in biotech, psychology, philosophy, economics.

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