YouTube recommended a clip of Tucker Carlson more than almost any other news video … [+]
Fox News on YouTube
YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which decides which videos people watch next, is responsible for 70% of the billion hours per day people spend on the platform, according to YouTube. When it became clear, especially after the 2016 presidential election, that this algorithm was leading users to fringe videos that were partisan, misleading, false and divisive, and fueled and strengthened a seething underground of radical conservatives, YouTube tried to put an end to it.
Last year the platform finally stopped recommending videos on conspiracy theory, and YouTube has more or less successfully managed to keep the fringe channels out of the mainstream, thereby reducing the spread of disinformation. This is based on research by Guillaume Chaslot, a former Google engineer who helped build the videos algorithm in question. But new data shows a worrying side effect: the promotion for Fox News.
“The most recommended channel on our data set in 2016 was Alex Jones,” the infamous internet conspiracy theorist, who has since been banned from YouTube, told the New York Times. “Now it’s Fox News.”
Republicans have long accused major social media platforms of suppressing conservative voices, and social media companies are trying to appease politicians while tackling misinformation.
Just six days before the 2020 election, the U.S. Senate Trade Committee held a hearing to investigate Section 230, the law that protects social media platforms from liability for content on their websites and gives them discretion to moderate of content. Facebook, Google, and Twitter CEOs testified and defended themselves against allegations of anti-conservative bias by Republican senators. Democratic senators accused their colleagues across the aisle of trying to get CEOs to obey the presidential commandments and to spread more misinformation.
The data, collected by Chaslot and Marc Faddoul, a study at the University of California at Berkeley, showed that a video by Tucker Carlson, who owns Google, which owns YouTube, accused democracy in his attempts to get search results Improve, undermined, YouTube’s recommended algorithm more than almost any other news video in the past few weeks.
It still goes on. The data showed that YouTube was most likely to recommend Fox News clips from its pro-Trump prime-time shows, which are known to spread unreliable information about election fraud and coronavirus while outrageously beating Democrats. The data also shows that Fox News was consistently the most recommended channel, often by a wide margin.
Fox News accounted for more than 3% of recommendations, compared with 1% for YouTube, according to data from an analysis that analyzed 300,000 recommendations on videos posted by 800 of YouTube’s top news channels between October 6 and 27 CNN and MSNBC. If you only watch election videos from the same channels, Fox News makes up a whopping 10% of all referrals, almost three times the MSNBC rate.
Fox News’ views on YouTube more than doubled last year, topping six billion on Monday, ahead of any other major American news network except NBCNews, according to Social Blade, a social media analytics firm.
Fox News knows how to play the game. YouTube marks certain accounts such as the network as authoritative sources that direct the algorithm to improve the content of these websites. And if there’s one thing conservative talk shows do, it’s Americans with clicking, emotionally charged headlines. The algorithm is designed to identify and reinforce the effectiveness of a headline in drawing clicks.
Fox News has worked hard to increase its presence on YouTube, a Fox spokesperson told NYT. The network has a dedicated team that posts videos that are known to work well with YouTube’s algorithms. This begs the question of how many headings on the network are designed to please the algorithm instead of telling the news the way it should be told.