YouTube had made an attempt to do away with hoaxes by hiring 10,000 moderators two months ago as part of its “Intelligence Desk,” whose task was to find and tackle conspiracy and hoax videos before they became viral; an attempt that failed miserably when a hoax claiming the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting as a fake and its victims as “crisis actors” trended at #1 in the site’s trending videos section.
To reiterate its previous attempt, YouTube has now decided to include a textbox under conspiracy videos that will redirect viewers to an information source regarding the topic, says YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki. The announcement regarding this new development was made at the SXSW media festival in Austin, TX, which was accompanied by an example of a top moon landing YouTube conspiracy theories, with a Wikipedia page about the first landing on the Moon attached to it.
While the move seems novel, it also comes with a major drawback. In order to refute YouTube conspiracy videos or a hoax successfully, a user needs to have access to completely accurate information, a guarantee that Wikipedia cannot give as a result of its pages being open to users to be edited freely and often inaccurately. This might be a way to manipulate information by those inclined to do so, fuelling hoaxes rather than diminishing them.
If, however, YouTube really wishes to do away with controversial videos, it can ban the controversial channels. But it may reflect badly on the site itself since a controversial video is not illegal, given that it states individual opinions, however conspiratorial. Thus, any such banning may cause more controversy than the hoax videos themselves.
Overhauling its video ranking algorithm or hiring another 10,000 moderators to join the “Intelligence Desk” may soon become options for YouTube to try out, depending on the success or failure of these new textboxes.