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YouTube Mistakenly Flagged Notre Dame Fire Live Videos as 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, . Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of ParisNotre Dame Fire, Paris, France - 15 Apr 2019
Lori Hinant/AP/REX/Shutterstock

YouTube’s ongoing effort to dispel conspiracy theories suffered a major fail Monday.

On live video of news broadcasts streamed on YouTube covering the massive fire that engulfed Notre Dame in Paris, a box underneath some of the livestreams displayed Encyclopedia Britannica’s article about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S. — an obviously mistaken linkage.

The 9/11 info box that showed up on the Notre Dame live-streams was part of YouTube’s program launched last year linking to third-party sources like Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia for topics which have been common targets of misinformation. YouTube first announced the program a little over a year ago.

YouTube said the information boxes — designed to provide a fact-check on conspiracy-related videos, like those related to 9/11 or the moon landing — are prompted by automated algorithms. The fact-checking boxes are supposed to provide more context to YouTube users on “well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation,” but the video giant admitted that in this case the system made “the wrong call.”

“We are deeply saddened by the ongoing fire at the Notre Dame cathedral,” YouTube said in a statement. “These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call. We are disabling these panels for live streams related to the fire.”

YouTube’s incorrect flagging of the Notre Dame fire was first reported by BuzzFeed News. According to a report by Nieman Labs, the errant YouTube notice with the 9/11 article showed up in live streams of CBS News, NBC News, and France 24 on Monday.