YouTube adds fact-check information panels above search results in the UK to stop the spread of misinformation on the video platform

  • UK users will see boxes above YouTube results when they search certain topics
  • These boxes will provide reputable and independently fact-checked information 
  • Google-owned platform has increasingly been targeting bizarre misinformation 

YouTube has started displaying fact-check information panels to users in the UK, in an attempt to stop the spread of misinformation on the video platform.

UK users will start seeing the independent, fact-checked information from third-party organisations on the Google-owned platform from Thursday.

Panels will appear above search results, offering ‘more context’ and links to reputable sources of information relating to whatever users are searching for.

This could include subjects that have recently been mired by damaging conspiracy theories, such as 5G, vaccinations and the current coronavirus pandemic. 

Panels will include fact checks from trusted organisations such as BBC Reality Check, Full Fact, Ferret Fact Service and FactCheckNI. 

As part of YouTube’s efforts to fight against misinformation, it’s expanding the fact check information panels to the UK and Germany. This feature is already available in the US, Brazil and India

The feature has already been available for users in the US, Brazil and India and will start to appear for users in the UK, as well as Germany, ‘over the coming days’.  

Social media and wider internet platforms have been criticised over their approach to combating misinformation, particularly during the pandemic, where a number of false claims about coronavirus have been able to spread across platforms.

YouTube hopes rolling the feature out further will help users make their own informed decisions about wacky claims, like ‘5G causes Covid-19’ or ‘the Earth is flat’. 

‘We are committed to protecting the YouTube community here in Britain,’ said Ben McOwen Wilson, managing director for YouTube UK.

‘Launching our fact check information panels in the UK is one of the many steps we are taking to raise up authoritative sources, to provide relevant and authoritative context, and to continue to reduce the spread of harmful misinformation.’  

Fact check panels will appear above search results with the heading: ‘Independent fact check’.  

The Google-owned platform hopes the initiative would help viewers make their own informed decisions about subjects prone to wacky claims, like ‘5G causes Covid-19’ or ‘the Earth is flat’ 

Below this will be the name of the third party doing the fact check, the claim being fact checked, a snippet of the publisher’s fact check finding, a link to the publisher’s article to learn more, and information about the publication date of the fact check article.

When there are related fact checks from multiple publishers, users will see multiple results. 

Fact checks won’t always show up, sometimes because a third party checker hasn’t published a fact check article relevant to some of the more obscure searches. 

Fact checking panels will target misinformation that comes up quickly as part of a fast-moving news cycle, where unfounded claims and uncertainty can suddenly appear, YouTube said.

As an example, should false reports for queries that tall people are more likely to get Covid-19, fact check information panels will highlight relevant, third-party fact checks above search results.

YouTube users will see different types of contextual info from third-party sources, like links to fact check results

One debunking panel provided by Full Fact on this subject says: ‘There is no proof of this. In the UK, taller men were more likely to report having coronavirus, but this trend was the opposite in the US.’ 

For a fact check article to appear, there must be a relevant fact check article available from an eligible publisher. 

Fact checks will also only show up when users search for a specific claim rather than a vague term. 

For example, if someone searches ‘did a hurricane just hit London’, they might see a relevant fact check article, but may not if they just search a more general query like ‘hurricane’, they may not.  

YouTube’s fight against misinformation ‘is not and will never be over’, but the platform is ‘committed to the long haul’, Wilson added.

It will continue to introduce new features and policies to ‘help protect and inform the British public’, he said.

YouTube’s lack of action on misinformation was the subject of a report earlier this year, which accused it of making money by allowing ads to run on videos that promote fake Covid-19 treatments. 

Non-profit research initiative the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) said YouTube has run ads on videos that promote sham remedies like herbs and smoothies for the deadly illness. 

YouTube allegedly ran ads, including some from Facebook and the Trump campaign, on videos promoting sham remedies like herbs and smoothies, according to a report from April

Advertisers including Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, Facebook, Liberty Mutual Insurance and streaming startup Quibi all had ads attached to such videos – one of which is titled ‘cure coronavirus with this home remedy’.

Ads for US insurance company Liberty Mutual also appeared before a Polish-language video that even advised viewers to not step foot in Chinese restaurants to avoid getting Covid-19. 

The site is allowing ‘peddlers of disinformation’ to earn money from advertising, TTP alleged, despite promises to only allow reputable videos on the site.

‘The findings show that Google-owned YouTube has provided economic incentives for people to create and distribute false and misleading information about the pandemic on its platform, which has virtually unrivalled reach around the globe,’ TTP said in a post in April. 

WHAT ARE TECH COMPANIES DOING ABOUT COVID-19?  

Facebook

The social network is giving the World Health Organisation as many free ads as it needs in a bid to get accurate health information to users of the platform as clearly as possible. 

It also launched the ‘Coronavirus Information Centre’ – a dedicated webpage with COVID-19 resources and advice. 

This is being promoted at the top of users’ News Feeds, directing them to the latest updates and guidance from the NHS and WHO.  

Facebook is also making its Workplace platform available to governments and emergency services for free in a bid to help those dealing with the coronavirus.

All government organisations globally, at a national or local level, are eligible to claim 12 months of free access to the premium tier of Workplace.  

Twitter

Twitter also recently resolved to delete tweets from its site that promote conspiracy theories, misleading or dangerous advice and other harmful ideas relating to coronavirus. 

Tweets that deny ‘established scientific facts’ and expert guidance regarding the virus will be marked as harmful and removed, the site said in a blog post. 

It gave examples of inaccurate tweets that would be deleted swiftly, including ‘people with dark skin are immune to COVID-19 due to melanin production’, ‘use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19’ and ‘the news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands!’.  

Google

Google also teamed up with WHO to launch an SOS Alert dedicated to the coronavirus, which appears at the top of search results when users type ‘coronavirus’. 

The search engine is prioritising information on the virus from the WHO, including official WHO updates on the spread of the virus and how to stay safe.   

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