YouTube’s Popularity as a News Resource Could Lead to Widespread Misinformation, Conspiracy Theories

Over a quarter of US adults that responded to a survey by the Pew Research Center claimed to get at least some of their news from Google-owned video search engine, YouTube. About 27% percent of these people did not think that YouTube was an important resource, but 59% felt like it was one of the most important resources whereas 13% felt like it was the single most important resource that they could rely on in order to stay up to date with whatever was happening in the world around them.

This is a problem because of the fact that not all of the news that is on YouTube is going to be reliable. There are a lot of independent channels on the platform as well, and while this can be a good thing if they report honestly the fact of the matter is that some of these independent channels are trying very hard to push conspiracy theories such as QAnon, antivax rhetoric as well as all manner of misinformation with one of the most serious being the denial that covid-19 is as serious as medical professionals are saying it is.

To put this into context, 3 of the top 100 mainstream news channels either mentioned or were directly about conspiracy theories. Compare this to independent channels where 14 of the top 100 are entirely focused on conspiracy theories and a further 21 mention them and you can see why this is such a huge problem.

To its credit, YouTube has tried quite hard to prevent such videos from becoming too prominent by removing them and tweaking its algorithm so that users don’t end up going down some kind of a rabbit hole where they end up getting fed this kind of content constantly. With all of that having been said and out of the way, it is important to note that every minute about 5 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube, which means that it is more or less impossible for such content to be stopped entirely. People need to be educated so that they can differentiate between real news and conspiracy theories.

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