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YouTube Is Rolling Out A Feature That Shows Fact-Checks When People Search For Sensitive Topics

The feature, currently available to some users in India, will eventually be available globally, although YouTube declined to provide a timeline.

Posted on March 7, 2019, at 11:13 a.m. ET

Sam Yeh / AFP / Getty Images

YouTube will start showing “information panels” — boxes of text that provide debunks from YouTube’s verified fact-checking partners — when people search for topics that are “prone to misinformation,” according to a YouTube spokesperson.

These panels will show up on pages of search results rather than on individual videos. To be clear: Videos containing misinformation can still appear in the search results, but YouTube will generate these disclaimers when a query involves sensitive topics, with the intent to inform viewers as the company deals with the spread of misinformation on the platform.

The feature is currently available to a limited number of users in India, one of YouTube’s largest markets with nearly 250 million users, for search queries in English and Hindi. The company said it will eventually expand it to users across the world, but declined to say when.

Here’s what an information panel looks like. This one says "Hoax Alert!"

YouTube

“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,” the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Asked for an example of the kind of search that would show an information panel, the YouTube spokesperson cited the recent conflict between India and Pakistan that led to a flood of misinformation on social media platforms.

The spokesperson also provided BuzzFeed News with a screenshot of an information panel in Hindi containing a debunk for a Hindi search query for "CCTV footage of the Pulwama terror attack" that yields videos trying to pass off a bomb explosion in Syria as that of an attack on Indian paramilitary forces.

YouTube

YouTube’s efforts to fight misinformation in the United States so far include linking to Wikipedia excerpts on conspiracy theory videos to better inform viewers.

In India, the company will use information from about half a dozen verified fact-checking services in India to show these panels. Many of these services are also working with Facebook to check misinformation on its platform in India ahead of major national elections in the country this spring.

Multiple verified fact-checkers told BuzzFeed News that YouTube will automatically show debunks from their sites in these panels, and that they would not need to manually provide this information to the company.

India’s cheap data prices, among the lowest in the world, have created a streaming video explosion. Millions of Indians who are still coming online for the first time in their lives are consuming information through YouTube videos instead of reading text, and using the platform like a search engine.

Yet the company has struggled with curbing misinformation. Last year, for instance, fake news and hoaxes dominated the Trending section on YouTube in India after the death of a popular Bollywood actor, forcing the company to increase human oversight of the section.

Recently in the US, YouTube has been slammed for frequently returning search results and recommendations for videos that describe vaccines as dangerous and harmful.


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