YouTube Takes New Measures to Combat Disinformation Ahead of US Elections

YouTube says it is making changes to its platform in
advance of the 2020 United States elections in an effort to curb the spread of
false information about candidates or the election process.

Checking content uploaded to YouTube for such a specific
purpose is difficult, mainly because Google aims to verify the information
provided by the creators, whether it’s something they say or something they
show.

The best way to inform people is to offer as much
information as possible on the available content. The company is looking to
bring quality videos in the search and ‘watch next’ panels, which it says should
tilt the balance in favor of truthful information. Also, YouTube says it will
help “quality” content of campaigns, candidates and political creators to reach
a wider audience and keep their accounts secure.

The heavy lifting will be done “invisibly,”
behind the curtains. The detection of deepfakes or modified content is the work
of algorithms and teams of people, and YouTube says it’s always trying to stay
ahead of the technology. One tool is the Intelligence Desk, which tracks trends
in the community and addresses them before they become an issue.

The goal would be to offer a platform for political
discourse that can be trusted, but that has proven a big problem for other
platforms as well, such as Twitter and Facebook. The difference is that both
Twitter and YouTube promise to tackle this issue head-on, while Facebook chose a
more lax approach to the elections.

Lastly, YouTube is expanding the political advertisement
policies to increase the transparency behind the funding process. Users will
have an easier time seeing who’s buying political ads on YouTube, Google, and
partner properties.

YouTube’s Community Guidelines are designed to cover technically
manipulated or doctored content, voting or the census processes, and even
content that makes false claims about political candidates.

Furthermore, attempting to impersonate other people or
channels, along with artificially increasing the number of views, likes, and
comments will attract the termination of the account.

“Content that comes close to violating our Community
Guidelines is a fraction of 1% of what’s watched on YouTube in the U.S.,” explained
Leslie Miller, VP of Government Affairs & Public Policy for YouTube.

“To reduce this even further, in January 2019, we
launched changes to our recommendations systems to limit the spread of harmful
misinformation and borderline content. The result is a 70% average drop in
watch time of this content coming from non-subscribed recommendations in the
U.S.”

While some of these measures are already in effect,
YouTube will rely on user input. Many of the changes are done server-side, but
the community is asked to report inaccurate content as well.

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