September 18, 2021

YouTube has removed over 1 million coronavirus misinformation videos


Since February 2020, YouTube has removed more than 1 million videos related to dangerous coronavirus information, such as false cures and claims of coronavirus being a hoax, the company’s chief product officer Neal Mohan said.

The statistic was shared in a blog post outlining how YouTube views removing misinformation on its platform. 

Other statistics included in the blog were that the video platform removes nearly 10 million videos a quarter, with the majority of these videos receiving less than 10 views before they are removed, and content in violation of YouTube’s policies represented 0.16% to 0.18% of total views.

While sharing YouTube’s ability to remove content, Mohan noted that speedy removals are “not nearly enough” and wrote that YouTube was working on “ratcheting up information from trusted sources and reducing the spread of videos with harmful misinformation”.  

He also took the opportunity to flag that an overly aggressive approach towards removals would have a “chilling effect on free speech”, specifically pointing to governments ordering for content to be taken down.

“We’re seeing disturbing new momentum around governments ordering the takedown of content for political purposes,” Mohan wrote. 

Two months ago, MIT Technology Review detailed that a human rights group had its videos documenting testimonies about missing Uyghur people in China blocked on YouTube as they contained ID cards.

The human rights group, Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights, had its YouTube channel blocked entirely on June 15, with the platform reportedly explaining that 12 of its videos received multiple “strikes” for containing people holding up ID cards to prove they were related to Uyghurs that have disappeared in China’s Xinjiang region.

YouTube reportedly said this type of content violated the platform’s policy as it does not allow content to contain personally identifiable information. 

Meanwhile, a New Zealand inquiry into the 2019 lone-wolf terrorist attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the government found that YouTube was “a far more significant source of information and inspiration” than extreme right-wing websites.

“The individual claimed that he was not a frequent commenter on extreme right-wing sites,” the inquiry’s report said.

“Although he did frequent extreme right-wing discussion boards such as those on 4chan and 8chan, the evidence we have seen is indicative of more substantial use of YouTube and is therefore consistent with what he told us.”

Activists face potential $5.1m fine for voter suppression robocalls

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering slapping a record-breaking $5.1 million fine against conservative activists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman after an investigation by the agency found the two men potentially violated US robocalling laws.

The proposed $5.1 million fine, if approved, would represent the biggest fine ever brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the FCC said.

The two individuals allegedly made 1,141 unlawful robocalls to wireless phones in violation of the TCPA. Under those laws, robocalls are prohibited from being sent to consumers if they have not given consent for receiving the calls.

The proposal comes after Michigan attorney-general Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit against Wohl and Burkman accusing them of making over 85,000 robocalls aimed at discouraging voting in the 2020 election.

The robocalls allegedly falsely told people that mail-in voting would allow personal information to be collected by police and credit card companies, as well as give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention powers to track people for mandatory vaccines, Nessel said.

In May, New York attorney-general Letitia James filed a separate lawsuit against Wohl and Burkman over similar allegations of voter suppression.

During the FCC’s investigation of the alleged robocalls, it received confirmation from consumers who received the robocall that they had not given consent.

The investigation also uncovered, through subpoenas, email exchanges between dialling service vendors and Wohl and Burkman about the robocall campaigns, including which zip codes to target.

The FCC added that 1,141 robocalls, made on August 26 and September 14 last year, identified Wohl and Burkman by name and used Burkman’s phone number for the caller ID.

In March, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shut down a charity fundraising robocall scam that duped victims out of $110 million.

According to the FTC, the communication “bombardment” was mainly comprised of illegal robocalls, but after residents were told they would be funding charity projects related to firefighters, veterans, and children, millions of dollars were still raised by the group using “deceptive solicitations.” 

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