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YouTube Adds Funding Disclaimers to Videos From RT, Other News Publishers

The next time you watch a video from Russia’s RT on YouTube, you might encounter a disclaimer of sorts: YouTube is beginning to add special funding notices to videos and live streams from news publishers that are government- or publicly funded.

These notices will include a link to the Wikipedia page of a news publisher, giving viewers the ability to read up about the source of their news. YouTube News senior product manager Geoff Samek said in a blog post Friday that these notices will only be shown to U.S. audiences for the time being.

“News is an important and growing vertical for us and we want to be sure to get it right, helping to grow news and support news publishers on YouTube in a responsible way,” he wrote. “Our goal is to equip users with additional information to help them better understand the sources of news content that they choose to watch on YouTube.”

The introduction of these disclaimers comes as platforms like Facebook, Twitter and also YouTube are facing increased scrutiny about their role in spreading false and misleading information. RT, an English-language broadcaster with close ties to the Russian government, has been in the spotlight in that context for its embrace of conspiracy theories and  storylines intended to support the Kremlin’s goals during the 2016 Presidential election.

Internal investigations by Facebook and Twitter also showed that RT targeted U.S. users with numerous ads during the election cycle. Twitter subsequently banned all ads from the broadcaster and its subsidiaries on its service last year.

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However, YouTube’s new news funding notices go beyond RT, and respond to the growing attention publicly and state-funded news from all across the world is getting on its platform, which in itself is a kind of response to the economics of online publishing.

As commercial publishers struggle to monetize news, governments and public funding models increasingly step in to fill the void. Case in point: AJ+, one of the most popular news publishers on Facebook, has been entirely funded by the government of Qatar.

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