For the past several years, YouTube has been trying to grapple with “fake news” on its platform. One tool the site has leveraged to address misinformation is a context card that links to Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, and other third-party sources. However, that information panel failed in a high-profile manner today as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris.
As pointed out by several users on Twitter, two livestreams from France 24 today links to an Encyclopedia Britannica article about the September 11 attacks. This card on mobile and the web features an image, brief summary, and full link to that unrelated piece of context.
Back in June, YouTube announced how it was “giving users more sources of information on topical searches and videos.” The site was specifically hoping to correct misinformation on “established historical and scientific topics” by linking to a trustworthy source directly below videos.
Starting today, users will begin seeing information from third parties, including Wikipedia and Encyclopædia Britannica, alongside videos on a small number of well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation, like the moon landing and the Oklahoma City Bombing.
This live fire in Paris does not meet that criteria. However, the affected France 24 livestreams are not labeled in any manner that describe what is occurring in Notre Dame. They’re titled as a generic livestream with the description styled similarly, and likely done so given the rush to post by the news broadcaster.
YouTube’s existing plans do not yet address misinformation during breaking news events. The app highlights a shelf of trusted channels delivering live reporting, and inserts news article in search results. However, from what has so far been announced, the site should not have even placed the information panel under today’s videos.
Update: YouTube has issued a statement to BuzzFeed noting how the panels were “triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call.” The Google company is “disabling these panels for livestreams related to the fire.”