YouTube’s Chief Product Officer has shed some light on the tech giant’s practice of elevating “authoritative voices” during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as how his company views non-authoritative content creators.
In an interview late last month, Protocol editor-at-large David Pierce asked Neil Mohan if YouTube has had to switch its approach to content moderation on the platform.
Mohan maintained that YouTube has always had a policy of taking down videos that share potentially harmful misinformation, whether by promoting false “cures” or discouraging viewers from seeking timely medical care.
To combat such misinformation, YouTube has been actively “raising up authoritative voices.”
“YouTube has served up around 14 billion text-based information panels with links to the CDC and WHO in recent weeks in an effort to get reliable coronavirus information to its users,” Protocol reports.
“When we recommend videos, we want to make sure that they’re coming from authoritative sources,” Mohan said, explaining that YouTube had been working with doctors and medical professionals to optimize recommendations.
While uplifting approved sources of information, YouTube is also actively quashing what it deems to be “misinformation threats.” The platform has established an internal intelligence desk to identify these threats and is now issuing two to three internal updates a week on the types of content it is banning.
Such content, Protocol continues, includes “emerging conspiracy theories, like the false claim that 5G caused COVID-19.”
“We’ve removed on the order of thousands of videos since the beginning of this crisis,” Mohan said.
Mohan proceeded to characterize non-authoritative voices as individuals sharing their opinions from their basements:
As opposed to, you know, it’s somebody espousing their opinions about a mask, you know, in their basement. This is coming from an authoritative channel, a news source, a medical professional, and if that’s the case, we think there’s going to be some context that’s provided around the question of masks. And even if that guidance changes, it will be reflected in sort of how an authoritative voice or channel talks about it.
Mohan then outlined how the platform uses its algorithm to “shadow ban” content and creators by “removing or reducing views of the videos where that same level of authority hasn’t been established.”
Mohan’s comments echo statements made last month by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
Days before Mohan’s interview, Wojcicki told CNN’s Brian Stelter that “Anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations would be a violation of our policy. And so removal is another really important part of our policy.”
“Mohan’s comments exemplify how the changes YouTube has made in relation to the coronavirus and news coverage have made it almost impossible for independent creators to cover current events, even when the mainstream media outlets that are being raised up have a track record of getting it wrong,” writes Reclaim The Net’s Tom Parker.
Watch Mohan’s full interview here.
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