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Tech policy

Linking to Wikipedia articles from conspiracy videos won’t solve YouTube’s core issue

March 14, 2018

On stage at SXSW yesterday, YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that the video site will add links to Wikipedia stories next to videos about conspiracy theories and other controversial topics.

The background: YouTube’s algorithm has had issues with recommending conspiracy-theory videos to users watching news clips. For example, after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the top trending video was a video suggesting one of the outspoken students was an actor.

How it will work: Wojcicki says videos on “significantly debated” topics will show pop-up cards when users watch the videos. These cards will contain information from and links to Wikipedia’s freely licensed content that better explain and could debunk the points in the video.

Make your own assessment: Instead of ensuring that conspiracy videos aren’t promoted on the platform over actual news, YouTube is putting the onus on its users to sort out the facts. This doesn’t solve the core issues of YouTube’s algorithm, which seems optimized for keeping viewers on the site instead of giving them good information.

What will happen to Wikipedia: Since Wikipedia is a site that anyone can edit, one immediate worry was that the conspiracy theorists would try to insert their point of view into the articles. Wikimedia, Wikipedia’s overseeing body,  isn’t worried. In a statement on Twitter it said, “We are always happy to see people, companies, and organizations recognize Wikipedia’s value as a repository of free knowledge ... Anyone can edit Wikipedia, and research shows that as more people contribute, articles become more accurate and balanced.”

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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