YouTube steps up the fight back against fake news

Tim Maytom

While Facebook may have drawn the majority of public ire when it comes to the fake news crisis, YouTube has also proven a fertile ground where sensationalist stories, misinformation and outright deceptive content can flourish. Now, as part of the Google News Initiative, the platform is announcing steps designed to stem the flow of fake news videos.

YouTube is committing $25m (£19m) to a number of initiatives and products aimed at supporting legitimate publishers and helping their content reach audiences. It has established a working group with news organisations and experts from around the world, including Vox Media, Jovem Pan and India Today to develop new product features, improve the news experience on YouTube and tackle emerging challenges.

Funding will be provided across approximately 20 global markets to support news organisations in building sustainable video operations. Grants will be available to news organisations of all sizes and types, and will be used to build key capabilities, train staff on best practices, enhance production facilities and develop formats optimised for online video. The team focused on supporting news publishers will also be significantly expanded.

In addition, focus will be placed on making authoritative sources more readily accessible, providing more sources and context to breaking news. Given that breaking news is often produced as articles first, rather than more time-consuming videos, YouTube will begin including a short preview of news articles in search results during the initial hours of a major news event. These results, which will be available in the US only to begin with, will include links to full articles, along with a reminder that breaking and developing news can rapidly change.

To make it easier to find quality news, YouTube’s ‘Top News’ shelf will prominently highlight videos from news sources in search results, and the Breaking News shelf will highlight videos from news organisations directly on the YouTube homepage. This change has launched today in 17 countries including the US, UK, France, India, Mexico, Brazil and Nigeria, and YouTube claims that number will double in the coming months.

In addition to these changes, YouTube announced plans to showcase more local news in the YouTube for TV app, starting with 25 media markets across the US, and provide third party context from publishers like Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica on video about established historical and scientific topics that have nonetheless been subject to consistent misinformation, such as the moon landing and the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Finally, YouTube, the Google News Initiative and are partnering with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, Local Media Association and the National Association for Media Literacy Education to support MediaWise, a US-based initiative that aims to equip 1m teenagers with digital literacy skills. Six popular YouTube creators including John Green, Ingrid Nilsen and Mark Watson will be working with MediaWise as part of the effort.

“We remain committed to working with the journalism community to build a more sustainable video ecosystem for news organisations,” said Neal Mohan, chief product officer at YouTube. “We know there is a lot of work to do, but we’re eager to provide a better experience to users who come to YouTube every day to learn more about what is happening in the world from a diversity of sources.”