Video platform YouTube said during a virtual media briefing that it is stepping efforts on fact-checking as it announced that the 400,000 videos it removed recently from the site is just the start of its campaign to spread timely voter-related information and cut down on misinformation and disinformation ahead of the May 2022 polls.
In January, more than 80 groups from countries around the world including the Philippines challenged YouTube regarding the weaponization of the platform to spread misinformation and disinformation. One example presented by these groups was the false content on former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who declared Martial Law and whose namesake son is running for president in the coming May 9 national elections.
“We’re really proud that YouTube has become a place where anyone, anywhere, and anytime can express themselves and access information. However, of course, with this commitment comes a lot of responsibility,” stated Emily Moxley, vice president for product management at YouTube, as she opened the briefing on Tuesday, March 1.
In line with this responsibility, YouTube said it has implemented the Election Information Panels last December 2021. These panels are found at the top of the search results when viewers search for certain information.
The first type or Candidate Information Panels shows information on the presidential and vice-presidential candidates when users in the Philippines search for the hopefuls’ names. They offer data obtained from verified, third-party sources such as the position the candidate is running for and their political party.
Similarly, all searches on “how to vote” prompt a panel where viewers can click on a link leading to the official website of the Commission on Elections. Here, they will find a step-by-step guide for voting on the day itself.
This feature joins previously released YouTube information panels aiming to promote authoritative sources on the platform like those that indicate funding sources from publishers that receive public or government funding.
A different panel provides background through external links on topics prone to misinformation, such as Martial Law in the Philippines.
Another priority for YouTube is the removal of content that violates YouTube’s community guidelines. From February 2021 to January 2022, the platform removed over 400,000 videos that violated these guidelines.
While the exact topics of these withdrawn videos were not disclosed, one section of YouTube’s community guidelines deals with election misinformation and disinformation policies.
Additionally, YouTube’s recommendation system has been updated to reduce the spread of borderline content that almost violates community guidelines as well as harmful misinformation. The video platform said consumption of borderline content from its recommendations is significantly below 1% globally.
YouTube said it is also exploring partnerships with Philippine fact-checking and media organizations. It has partnered with Meedan’s #FactsFirstPH, a coalition of more than 100 groups, including news organizations, to fight misinformation and disinformation ahead of the local elections.
The company said it is also working with the University of the Philippines and their Tsek.ph fact-checking project to produce a Philippine Election Workshop series for journalists.
Noting that the fight against misinformation and disinformation should be tackled from all sides, YouTube said it is helping consumers become more aware of misinformation and disinformation by investing in local digital literacy programs and regional programs covering the whole Southeast Asia region.
Besides trainings and seminars, YouTube’s parent company, Google, offers services to protect human rights groups, monitoring organizations, and media outfits. Google’s subsidiary Jigsaw created Project Shield to secure the websites of these kinds of organizations from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. It also encouraging Filipino journalists and election candidates to sign up for its Advanced Protection Program.
“Over the last few years, we’ve made deep investments to make YouTube a more reliable source for news, while also maintaining the openness of the platform,” Moxley said.
“Our work is ongoing and we are committed to making YouTube a vibrant and safe community for a healthy political discourse as well as help protect the integrity of elections.”
If significantly impactful at combating misinformation and disinformation, these features and policies will be used by YouTube as a model for its operations in other regions around the globe.