YouTube Starts To Proactively Fact-Check Misinformation In The US

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YouTube is now bringing its fact check panel to users in the US to combat the spread of misinformation. That's according to reports stemming from a YouTube blog post detailing the feature's arrival. The feature is rolling out now in largely in response to misinformation about COVID-19 caused in part by the rapid news cycle surrounding the pandemic.

Now, when YouTube users perform a search for specific terms — the company uses an example search for "covid and ibuprofen" — the results will also return an "Independent fact check" card. That's displayed just above the results themselves. The card contains information pertaining to the search. So, in this case, it offers up a common claim about the two topics at hand. More directly, it indicates that there is no proven link between deaths from the disease and ibuprofen use.

Another example provided by YouTube indicates a similar response might be returned if users searched whether a "tornado hit Los Angeles" or not. A search query for just "tornado" wouldn't return a fact check card. But that specific search might return results about the truth of related claims.

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YouTube also admits that the fact check articles may not always be completely accurate or follow Community Guidelines. But users will have the opportunity to send feedback to YouTube if those instances crop up. The articles will, however, always be pulled from authoritative sources.

YouTube is taking a proactive approach here

Compared to many of YouTube's recent feature releases, its fact check panel is a bit more proactive. That's true, in particular for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Prior to this, the company has been showcasing more generalized cards pointing users to the most recent information about the topic. Further down in search results, it's also been showcasing more 'context'-based information.

The solution also takes a less hard-line approach. So it's less likely to be ridiculed — somewhat inappropriately — as censorship. Other measures in response to misinformation have, using recent policy changes as an example, simply removed misleading or factually incorrect content. Other changes have demonetized entire swaths of videos regardless of their accuracy, prompting both providers of correct and incorrect information to simply stop making content on specific topics.

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As is always the case, both of those measures are likely to result in an outcry from content creators and users alike. That's been the case in the past as well whenever YouTube starts outright banning content and creators.

Here, the company is actively addressing the content with well-sourced information. That leaves it up to end-users to decide for themselves what is or isn't true. And it does so while still very prominently surfacing information that is factually correct. That should strike a clear middle ground between allowing content amid rapid-flowing report cycles and keeping users well informed.

The new feature should appear automatically for users in the US

The new YouTube fact-check panels should already be appearing for users in the US since this is a rollout on the server-side of the equation. So there won't be any app update required. It also isn't being hindered by possible bug concerns since it's already been rolled out previously in India and Brazil since last year.

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To access the feature, users will simply need to search for a relevant topic. That should also be a fairly specific topic, as highlighted above. Then the cards will appear on their own above search results.

The cards also won't likely cover every possible need for fact-checking just yet. Instead, it will improve in terms of subjects covered and accuracy over time, according to YouTube.

Independent fact check card from YouTube
YouTube's new Independent fact check card appears above search results