June 24, 2022

OSLO, Norway – YouTube came under fire in Oslo on Friday during a “fireside chat” at GlobalFact 9, a large fact-checking conference hosted by the International Fact-Checking Network. During the Q&A, multiple fact-checkers in the audience criticized the tech giant for a failure to enforce quality standards, a general lack of communication and an alleged failure to act on mis- and disinformation on its platform.

“YouTube does not seem to raise accurate, credible information in its algorithms. We have had a lot of experience with YouTube making videos of fact-checking content. It doesn’t seem to do very well,” said Angie Drobnic Holan, editor-in-chief of PolitiFact. “I think most news organizations are extremely frustrated with your platform.”

Moments before, Will Moy, chief executive of the English fact-checking outlet Full Fact, expressed many of the same sentiments.

Brandon Feldman, a representative for YouTube, countered that the platform does elevate “authoritative sources” on its homepage during breaking news events, and in its search features.

“All of the work that we’re doing around raising authoritative content, navigating that in the context of the various recommendation systems is very much a big priority for us, and it’s something we’re continuing to invest in,” Feldman said.

The IFCN previously published an open letter to YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki, signed by nearly a hundred fact-checking organizations, calling on the platform to ramp up its efforts to stymie the spread of false information.

“As an international network of fact-checking organizations, we monitor how lies spread online — and every day, we see that YouTube is one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide. This is a significant concern among our global fact-checking community,” the IFCN wrote.

Citing examples in Brazil, the Philippines, Germany and Spain, the letter detailed how YouTube seems to permit and promote harmful content across the platform.

“I hope you can take that message back to your entire company and share it at the highest levels. Because sending a representative to a fact-checking conference to talk nice is just not doing it,” Holan said to audience applause. The tension in the room echoed a panel from the day before with Meta and WhatsApp, when fact-checkers clapped as someone in the room criticized Meta for its policies on fact-checking politicians. (Meta doesn’t permit direct moderation of politicians’ statements.)

IFCN director Baybars Örsek, who was moderating the discussion, thanked both Feldman and the international group of fact-checkers. YouTube’s presence at the conference, as Örsek said, was a step in the right direction.

“I think to me, this has been very useful and just as good as it gets, especially as a first encounter between the company and the fact-checking community,” Örsek said.

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Seth Smalley is a reporter at Poynter and the IFCN. Get in touch at seth@poynter.org or on Twitter @sethsalex.
Seth Smalley

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