YouTube has recently devised a strategy to weed out the black sheep from the white sheep in regard to news sources. More accurately, the video streaming platform will label state broadcasters on its platform as part of its plan to fight propaganda. There is no information on which criteria the platform will explicitly use to filter out state broadcasters that are considered to be broadcasting propaganda.
How do we know where to set the line that separates patriotism, marketing, and advertising from propaganda, polarizing, and manipulating? Who or what will be in charge of deciding what is propaganda and what is not?
Flagging government-funded news reporting
According to Tech Crunch, YouTube intends to offer its viewers more transparency:
“Our goal is to equip users with additional information to help them better understand the sources of news content that they choose to watch on YouTube.”
YouTube will now add notices below videos so that users can make out the videos uploaded by broadcasters who receive some level of government or public funding.
The Wall Street Journal believes this step might help tackle the ongoing “fake news” problem that fills the web. It claims that “fringe conspiracy theories and propaganda are often given equal visibility and attention as legitimate news sources.”
Labeling only visible in the U.S
Initially, the labels will only appear to users in the U.S. channels. Most likely to be affected are the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), or foreign state news organizations, such as Russia’s RT or China’s Xinhua. Also, Germany’s dozen or so public broadcasting stations that enjoy a web presence on YouTube will be affected. The labels YouTube will apply to who it identifies as being a public broadcaster might not always be accurate.
While some are enthusiastic about YouTube’s new measure, others fail to see how increasing the transparency around government-funded news reporting will help eliminate or even address the issue of fake news, conspiracy theories, or content that’s designed to influence public opinion for either financial or political gain.
According to Merriam-Webster, propaganda is defined as follows:
“…the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person…ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause; also: a public action having such an effect”
Highlight authoritative news sources
YouTube has apparently taken the initiative to highlight who it deems to be an “authoritative news source” by giving these better exposure and a heightened visibility on its homepage. “We also made progress to better surface content from authoritative news sources, both on the homepage in a new breaking news section and in search,“ according to YouTube.
AI to improve YouTube’s enforcement
While YouTube will be trusting its human employees and the “good” users to enforce its policies, it will also place its coin on artificial intelligence to boost the enforcement of its policies. In a statement, the company said:
“We will also improve the enforcement of our policies through a combination of human review and machine learning technology.”