YouTube Launches Initiative to Fight Fake News, Pledges $25 Million to Support News Orgs

You can’t always trust the veracity of stuff posted online — and obviously YouTube is no exception.

On Monday, Google’s YouTube announced that it is committing $25 million to help support legitimate news organizations, and also detailed new features intended to flag misinformation and highlight authoritative news sources.

YouTube’s role in promoting conspiracy theories has flared up in recent months. In February, for example, a YouTube video suggesting that one of the high-school students who survived the mass killing in Parkland, Fla., David Hogg, was an actor hired by gun-control advocates briefly became YouTube’s No. 1 trending video. YouTube removed the clip within a few hours, citing violation of its policy on harassment and bullying.

In the wake of such incidents, Google and YouTube have since seen the need to take more proactive steps to support news on YouTube as well as educate users about spotting fake news. YouTube executives Neal Mohan, chief product officer and Robert Kyncl, chief business officer, outlined the new measures in a blog post Monday.

YouTube said it will provide funding in about 20 global markets to support news organizations in “building sustainable video operations.” The grants will let new orgs build out video capabilities, train staff on video best practices, and enhance production facilities. YouTube says it also will expand its team focused on supporting news publishers.

Among other steps YouTube is taking: a new fact-checking box on certain videos about “well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation, like the moon landing and the Oklahoma City Bombing,” the execs wrote. Starting Monday, users will begin seeing information from third parties, including Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, alongside videos in that category. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki previously announced plans to roll out the feature.

Next, for breaking news, within the next few weeks in the U.S., YouTube will provide a short preview of news articles in search results that link to full articles during the initial hours of a major news event. That will also include “a reminder that breaking and developing news can rapidly change,” Mohan and Kyncl wrote.

YouTube also has begun testing features that distribute local news in the YouTube app for connected TVs across 25 media markets in the U.S. “So far, local news has seen strong engagement, and we will be expanding it to dozens more markets like Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Kansas City,” the YouTube execs wrote.

On another front, YouTube said it has established a working group with news organizations and experts to help the video site develop new product features and improve the news experience on YouTube. Early members of the working group include Vox Media, Jovem Pan, and India Today.

In addition, YouTube, the Google News Initiative and Google.org, are teaming with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, Local Media Association, and the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) to support MediaWise, a U.S.-based initiative designed to equip 1 million teens with digital-literacy skills.

As part of the partnership with MediaWise, six YouTube creators — including John Green, Ingrid Nilsen and Mark Watson — will be creating videos intended to raise awareness about digital literacy and help educate teens about identifying legit sources of news and information.

The video site also said it will widen the rollout of YouTube’s Top News feature, which highlights videos from news sources in search results, and its Breaking News shelf directly on the YouTube homepage. Currently, the Top News and Breaking News features are launched in 17 countries, including the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Japan, India, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, and Nigeria. YouTube expects to double the number of countries where those features are available in the next few months.

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