February 6, 2018
YouTube, targeting content that promotes conspiracy theories as well as state-sponsored content, says it will begin to label all videos coming from state-funded broadcasters. That may even include the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), but in fact is intended to target such bad actors as RT, the Russian state news organization identified by U.S. intelligence as the Kremlin’s main international propaganda unit. Last year, YouTube reportedly had 5.5 million views across 20 channels of RT content.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to the company’s chief product officer Neal Mohan, YouTube is “also considering surfacing relevant videos from credible news sources alongside clips peddling conspiracy theories, such as those claiming the moon landing was a hoax.” The plan, however, is still in its early stages, and WSJ notes that, “choosing which conspiracy theories to target would likely be too nuanced for software.”
Since evidence emerged that “Russian actors seeking to manipulate U.S. voters before and after the 2016 election reached more than 100 million people,” Google and other tech companies including Facebook and Twitter have proposed solutions. Facebook is now promoting “broadly trusted” news sources, and Twitter “notified roughly 1.4 million people who interacted with accounts now known to be backed by a Russian government-linked group.”
YouTube has also shifted to relying on its Google News team to promote “an ever-changing list of authoritative news sources.” “The principle here is to provide more information to our users, and let our users make the judgment themselves, as opposed to us being in the business of providing any sort of editorial judgment on any of these things ourselves,” said Mohan.
Fortune reports that YouTube will place the reference to government funding on videos “directly under the video but above its title.” These notices will be visible to U.S. viewers. With regard to the labeling of PBS videos, that entity told the LA Times that, “PBS and its member stations receive a small percentage of funding from the federal government; the majority of funding comes from private donations.”