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YouTube is being ‘weaponized,’ fact-checkers say

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YouTube has paved the way for “unscrupulous actors” to “manipulate and exploit” its users, according fact-checking organizations from around the globe.

In a public statement addressed to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, the organizations accused the site of “allowing its platform to be weaponized,” per the open letter, published on and signed by a group called the International Fact-Checking Network, made up of 83 fact-checking teams from dozens of countries including the US-based, PolitiFact and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker.

“What we do not see is much effort by YouTube to implement policies that address the problem,” the group wrote. “On the contrary, YouTube is allowing its platform to be weaponized by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, and to organize and fundraise themselves.”

They added, “Current measures are proving insufficient.”

The letter goes on to explain that YouTube’s policy of “deleting or not deleting” videos doesn’t go far enough to mitigate the spread of misinformation and disinformation — and urged the social media company to keep some harmful posts on the condition that it also boosts verified, corrective content.

Examples of such nefarious and “bogus” content on YouTube indicated a particularly dire digital environment in the Global South. In the previous two years alone, the platform saw flourishing hate speech in Brazil and widespread government propaganda from the Philippines.

“Many of those videos and channels remain online today, and they all went under the radar of YouTube’s policies, especially in non-English speaking countries and the Global South.”

Meanwhile, government conspiracy is “thriving and collaborating across borders,” encouraging people to deny medical science and avoid COVID-19 vaccinations.

Authors later outline four “solutions” that together “would make a great deal of difference.” The group advises YouTube to make their moderation policy transparent and public; provide language and country-specific data and support; debunk aggressively, with “superimposed” corrections onto videos; and invest in fact-checkers and independent research.

“We are ready and able to help YouTube,” they offer, in a bid to meet with Wojcicki, who was one of Google’s founding executives more than 20 years ago.

In a statement to the Associated Press, YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez said the company has “invested heavily in policies and products in all countries we operate [in] to connect people to authoritative content, reduce the spread of borderline misinformation, and remove violative videos.”

She called fact-checking a “crucial tool,” but hedged its emphasis as “one piece of a much larger puzzle to address the spread of misinformation.”

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