Bloomberg Law
April 28, 2020, 4:00 PM

YouTube Brings Fact-Check to U.S. in Midst of Covid-19 Infodemic

Mark Bergen
Mark Bergen
Bloomberg News

YouTube will start showing links to fact-check articles to viewers in the U.S., part of its effort to tame the spread of misinformation on the world’s largest video site.

The feature will display snippets from select news publishers and organizations that follow standards from fact-checking bodies, the company said Tuesday. These links will appear above videos when people type in searches for certain topical claims, such as “covid and ibuprofen.”

YouTube added fact-checking links to some search results in the U.S.
Source: YouTube

Two years ago, YouTube began posting links to Wikipedia below videos about known conspiracy theories. But the whirlwind speed of events such as political elections and the novel coronavirus prompted the company to add more safeguards, said Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer.

“We’re literally seeing science happen hour-by-hour,” he said. “That’s where fact-checking comes in.”

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Google’s YouTube already introduced this tool in India and Brazil. For the U.S. version, more than a dozen publishers are participating at the start. YouTube didn’t say how many search terms would trigger the fact-check articles, but Mohan said the feature would “roll out pretty narrowly and expand from there.”

Google and Facebook Inc. have been criticized for letting misinformation spread. But the companies can’t or won’t check the veracity of all the content posted on their services. Instead, they have tapped external fact-checking groups to deal with false and unverified claims. Results have been mixed.

YouTube saw a 75% jump in views on news content as the pandemic took hold. In response, the site has inserted links to public health agencies below videos about Covid-19 and taken down thousands of videos for violating disinformation policies, according to Mohan.

The fact-check feature appears in search results on YouTube, but the company has said in the past a bulk of its traffic comes from video recommendations, not searches. Mohan noted that YouTube has trained its software system to detect videos with misinformation and then demote them in recommendations.

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