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YouTube’s says it’s going to clean up its act, but don’t expect much

February 2, 2018

The video site is full of questionable content—but an ex-staffer says the underlying algorithms really need attention.

The problem: Take your pick: conspiracy theories, violence, propaganda, and worse lurk on the site.

A solution? The Wall Street Journal says YouTube will provide more context around videos, warning users when they contain conspiracy theories or are produced by state-funded media outlets. It may show credible videos alongside the problematic ones.

Deeper problems: Guillaume Chaslot, an AI expert who worked on YouTube’s recommendation system, tells the Guardian that its algorithms will keep surfacing questionable content:

“The recommendation algorithm is not optimising for what is truthful, or balanced, or healthy for democracy. There are many ways YouTube can change its algorithms to suppress fake news … I tried to change YouTube from the inside but it didn’t work.”

More to be done: YouTube has applied many Band-Aids to content problems. It’s unlikely the new initiative will do much. Perhaps those algorithms need overhauling?

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