YouTube

YouTube removes over 1 million videos on COVID-19 disinformation

Camille Elemia
YouTube removes over 1 million videos on COVID-19 disinformation

YOUTUBE. Silhouettes of laptop and mobile device users are seen next to a screen projection of the YouTube logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

But UK-based fact-checking group Full Fact says, 'YouTube should think about labeling and contextualizing false or misleading claims rather than framing this as a choice between removal versus non removal of content'

YouTube has removed over one million videos on “dangerous coronavirus information,” including claims of a hoax and false cures, since February 2020.

YouTube chief product officer Neal Mahon said this in a blog post on Wednesday, August 25, outlining how YouTube approaches the spread of disinformation on the platform. (READ: YouTube’s unclear policies allow lies to thrive)

“In the midst of a global pandemic, everyone should be armed with absolutely the best information available to keep themselves and their families safe,” Mahon said.

As for non-coronavirus related posts, Mahon just reiterated YouTube’s longtime policies, including ramping up good content and reliable sources on the platform and decreasing the circulation of bad ones.

Mahon also reiterated YouTube’s claim that “bad content represents only a tiny percentage of the billions of videos” on the platform. He added that the platform removes around 10 million videos each quarter, and that a majority of these videos “don’t even reach 10 views.”

“In the absence of certainty, should tech companies decide when and where to set boundaries in the murky territory of misinformation? My strong conviction is no,” he said.

He maintained that “an overly aggressive approach” on removal of content would have a “chilling effect on free speech.”

While YouTube says only less than 1% of its platform’s content is harmful, this still poses a serious threat, as YouTube beat Facebook to become the country’s top social media platform in the third quarter of 2020.

Full Fact, an independent fact-checking organization in the United Kingdom, pointed out “a notable omission” in Mahon’s blog post – the role of independent, non-partisan fact checkers.

In a statement sent to Rappler, Full Fact said, “YouTube should think about labeling and contextualizing false or misleading claims rather than framing this as a choice between removal versus non removal of content.”

“The Third-Party Fact-Checking program with Facebook has shown the potential of this kind of partnership – both in tackling damaging false claims, and in addressing the less clear-cut misinformation YouTube’s post mentioned.” – with a report from Vernise Tantuco/Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com