YouTube’s conspiracy video problem may be more widespread than previously thought, according to fresh research by professor in addition to data journalist Jonathan Albright. Venturing down the platform’s algorithmic rabbit hole, he found a network of almost 9,000 conspiracy-related videos with almost four billion views in total.
inside wake of the Parkland school shooting, YouTube has come under criticism for allowing conspiracy videos suggesting the survivors of the shooting are crisis actors to appear high in search results in addition to Trending pages. YouTube has attempted to remove some of the offending videos in addition to, according to CNN, issued one of three strikes to Alex Jones’ Infowars channel for one such video.
Albright’s initial research, published early Sunday morning to his Medium page, can be a fresh look at the breadth in addition to depth of YouTube’s conspiracy problem. To start, Albright searched YouTube’s API for “crisis actors” in addition to culled the “next up” recommendations for each of the results. Albright ended up with list of about 9,000 conspiracy-themed videos. A sampling of the videos surfaces everything through false flag videos to disturbing sexual content — one YouTube-hosted video flagged by Albright bears the title “Truth or Dare with rape.”
While not all videos in Albright’s results are conspiratorial or offensive — some are through major news organizations in addition to others are innocuous late-night TV or comedy clips — the majority of the 9,000 videos appear to contain conspiracy theories. They come through hundreds of disparate accounts which post in addition to repost videos to the tune of hundreds of thousands of views. Indeed, many of the videos have gone viral — as Albright notes in his Medium piece, the top 50 mass shooting–related conspiracy videos he surfaced have around 50 million views.
Albright told BuzzFeed News on Sunday morning which he was concerned by the depth of the search results he uncovered. “which’s fueling the expansion of a genre of socially harmful material which’s quickly leading to our inability to fact check in addition to counter false claims,” he said.
A review of the raw data which Albright shared with BuzzFeed News shows how YouTube’s recommendation algorithm can push a user deeper into the murky world of conspiracy theories. Albright’s initial search for “crisis actor” videos initially surfaces videos about the Parkland children, however then quickly branches off into recommended videos for dozens of different well-liked conspiracies about subjects including 9/11, the JFK assassination, Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing, Pizzagate, the Illuminati, chemtrails, vaccines, Freemasons, in addition to the Sandy Hook, Aurora, in addition to Las Vegas shootings.
Albright said the results suggest which the conspiracy genre can be embedded so deeply into YouTube’s video culture which which could be nearly impossible to eradicate.
“which’s already tipped in favor of the conspiracists, I think,” Albright told BuzzFeed News. “There are a handful of debunking videos inside data. They can’t make up for the thousands of videos with false claims in addition to rumors.”
Albright also suggested which the proliferation of these videos makes which more attractive for others to create This specific content. “which’s algorithmically in addition to financially incentivizing the creation of This specific type of content at the expense of truth,” Albright said. This specific, he argues, makes moderation incredibly difficult. “Journalists in addition to affected parties (parents, survivors, first responders, etc.) are not only fighting the content on YouTube, they are fighting its algorithms — first at the ‘trending’ level in addition to then again at the search in addition to recommendation levels.”
Currently, which’s unclear through Albright’s findings just how many of the conspiracy videos are monetized through YouTube’s ad platform. Albright told BuzzFeed News he can be working with researchers to attempt to understand the monetization of conspiracy videos.
YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.
Charlie Warzel can be a senior writer for BuzzFeed News in addition to can be based in fresh York. Warzel reports on in addition to writes about the intersection of tech in addition to culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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