YouTube turns to Wikipedia to help debunk conspiracy theories spreading on its platform

YouTube turns to Wikipedia to help debunk conspiracy theories spreading on its platform
Credit: YouTube / Wired

For years, YouTube has been plagued with videos that spread hoaxes, hateful speech, and all manner of misinformation. Its latest move to combat that is to display links to Wikipedia articles when you watch conspiracy theory videos, said YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki at SXSW this week.

Wired noted that the new Information Cues feature would surface links to Wikipedia pages on videos about things like chemtrails and whether humans have ever landed on the moon. YouTube will first supplement videos that focus on common conspiracy theories floating around the web this way.

That raises the question, is this the best that YouTube can do? While Wikipedia is an incredible resource for information on the web, its content is contributed by the general populace, and can be manipulated to spread misinformation. Meanwhile, YouTube still isn’t fully taking on the responsibility of censoring problematic videos on its platform, and its efforts to do continue to be inconsistent at best.

Technologist Tom Coates points out that YouTube’s new feature might also strain Wikipedia’s team of volunteers by sending hordes of potential conspiracy theorists their way, who may either contest the encyclopedia’s content or attempt to edit it:

It’s also worth noting that Google already makes use of Wikipedia to supplement its search results, without having to pay for the privilege of doing so. YouTube’s Information Cues works the same way, and it remains to see if the Wikipedia community will suffer as a result. Here’s Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation that runs Wikipedia:

Ultimately, the Information Cues feature may turn out to be helpful – but it seems like a tiny part of a solution to a huge problem, and hardly sounds like YouTube stepping up to the challenge of fighting misinformation. The problem affects users and creators across the globe, and the company needs to do more to fix things.

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