YouTube is investing $25m (£18.8m) in journalism on its platform, focusing on helping news organisations produce online videos and changing its site to better support trusted news providers.
As well as the investment, which will be partly used to fund a working group to spearhead news product features, the company is changing how its site works to “make authoritative sources readily accessible”.
The service, owned by Google, will heavily promote videos from vetted news sources on the site’s Top News and Breaking News sections “to make it easier to find quality news”, and create new features – initially only in the US – to help distribute local news.
“We believe quality journalism requires sustainable revenue streams and that we have a responsibility to support innovation in products and funding for news,” the company’s chief product officer and chief business officer, Neal Mohan and Robert Kyncl respectively, said in a statement.
“Today, we’re announcing steps we’re taking with the Google News Initiative to support the future of news in online video, and product features we’ve been working on to improve the news experience on YouTube.”
News events, particularly breaking stories, have long been a problem for YouTube. Many times over the last year, conspiracy theories have spread on the site following mass shootings in the US, falsely claiming knowledge of the assailants’ political ties or religion, or alleging the entire event was fake.
Within days of the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, for instance, search results on the site promised videos suggesting that law enforcement had deceived the public, and that the shooting was a “false flag” attack staged by the government to bring in gun control.
In their statement, Mohan and Kyncl acknowledged such problems: “We know there is a lot of work to do, but we’re eager to provide a better experience to users who come to YouTube everyday to learn more about what is happening in the world from a diversity of sources.”
Many of their solutions involve temporarily prioritising other sources over videos. “Authoritativeness is essential to viewers, especially during fast-moving, breaking news events, so we’ve been investing in new product features … After a breaking news event, it takes time to verify, produce and publish high-quality videos. Journalists often write articles first to break the news rather than produce videos. That’s why in the coming weeks in the US we will start providing a short preview of news articles in search results on YouTube that link to the full article during the initial hours of a major news event, along with a reminder that breaking and developing news can rapidly change,” they write.
For longer-lasting hoaxes, such as the claim that the moon landings were fake, YouTube will on Tuesday launch a previously announced programme to link to authoritative sources, such as Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, under videos on those topics.
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