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YouTube has a misinformation plan that doesn’t harm free speech

How to solve a problem like misinformation? Well, no-one has yet, but YouTube is considering a way to limit its spread without treading on free speech for content it considers ‘borderline’.

While videos that violate the company’s content policies are being constantly removed from the platform, those questionable ones that don’t hit the threshold present a problem for the Google-owned platform.

Referring to the “cross-platform problem”, one potential solution the company is considering is preventing this misinformation from going viral, while allowing it to remain on the platform to further discussion and education.

In a blog post on the matter (via Engadget) the company said it may remove the share button for videos it is uncomfortable with recommending to people, which would prevent them from easily being embedded on other sites.

Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer, says views “videos that don’t quite cross the line of our policies for removal but that we don’t necessarily want to recommend to people,” are already greatly reduced through recommendations algorithms. Less than 1% of the consumption of these clips comes from recommendations.

“But even if we aren’t recommending a certain borderline video, it may still get views through other websites that link to or embed a YouTube video,” he adds.

“One possible way to address this is to disable the share button or break the link on videos that we’re already limiting in recommendations. That effectively means you couldn’t embed or link to a borderline video on another site. But we grapple with whether preventing shares may go too far in restricting a viewer’s freedoms.”

The company is conscious that cancelling out alternate views about important topics could harm the overall discussion. So the key could be to allow space for this content while making it harder for that information to travel far and wide on its watch.

“We need to be careful to balance limiting the spread of potentially harmful misinformation, while allowing space for discussion of and education about sensitive and controversial topics,” Mohan says.

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