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YouTube brings fact check feature to controversial topics

When users search YouTube for controversially discussed topics, they will soon receive a fact check. A test is already underway in India.

Soon, YouTube will be passing on to the user via a fact check what independent partners have to say about discussable topics. Corresponding boxes with corrections will appear, for example, when searching for viruses in paracetamol or vaccines. The feature currently being tested in India will soon be rolled out globally and will prevent comprehensive misinformation on the platform.

YouTube defends itself against misinformation and conspiracies

Every social medium has to struggle with misinformation that is scattered on the platforms. Theories of vaccination opponents, flat earthers, etc. that cannot be substantiated should convince numerous people on Facebook, YouTube and the like. However, the video platform is increasingly defending itself against information that can objectively be classified as false. At the beginning of the year, recommendations for conspiracy videos were already switched off. So-called "Borderline Content", whose factual depictions are questionable, should no longer be recommended to users.

Soon, boxes with a fact check will follow directly in the search, which will then appear when users search for content that can be described as controversial because they may sometimes have subjective facts. As BuzzFeed News reports, the so-called "information panels" are provided by tested partners when searching for content that is particularly susceptible to misinformation. These panels will not appear in individual videos, but on the page with the search results. The feature is currently being tested in India and provides information for search queries in English or Hindi.

For example, if a user searches for "Virus in Paracetamol", an info box is presented which is initially marked with "Hoax Alert".

The box, citing Google's partner The Quint, explains that the viral warning against paracetamol has no basis because there is no virus in the tablets.

Extension of the feature is planned

While the function was previously limited to India, it will be rolled out globally in the coming months. A YouTube speaker told BuzzFeed News: As part of our ongoing efforts to build a better news experience on YouTube, we are expanding our information panels to bring fact checks from eligible publishers to YouTube.

Especially in political disputes, as recently between India and Pakistan, social media are flooded with misinformation. Therefore, the fact checks provided by selected and tested publishers is an important feature for users.

The info boxes of the publishers are automatically created by YouTube from the content on their pages. This means that the fact checks do not have to be compiled manually for individual topics. It is precisely at this point, however, that the function may be open to criticism, because a classification that is contextual, but not necessarily explicitly developed, can possibly be recognized as insufficient consideration. Also, users must trust the objectivity and seriousness of the respective publishers. Nonetheless, these panels - in a sense reminiscent of the info buttons for publishers on Facebook - are an important moment. They are irritating, even if some users are convinced of the earth as a disk or harmful vaccines. And that's important.

YouTube is committed to ensuring that misinformation on the platform is given significantly less attention in the long term. This is also important for the company because advertisers do not want ads to be played out in an environment with such controversies. In addition, YouTube and other social media have in the past often had to expose themselves to criticism aimed at spreading false reports via their platforms.

Users can also manage their own recommendations and search results on YouTube, and with the fact check feature, they will soon receive even more well-founded background information on the topics in the search.

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