YouTube will show Wikipedia articles to fight hoaxes and conspiracy theories

Illustration by Alex Castro  The Verge

At SXSW, YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki revealed that the site is pairing up with Wikipedia to try and curb the spread of conspiracy theory videos.

As if Wikipedia were not broadly present in the Google search result it will spawn in yet another place: under the Youtube videos promoting "conspiracy theories". "We were not given advance notice of this announcement".

YouTube has delivered "strikes" to a number channels, such as the platform's most prominent conspiracy theory creators Alex Jones and InfoWars, for spreading misinformation about the shooting. Most recently, the Google-owned video giant was scrutinized for allowing a conspiracy video attempting to delegitimize the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida appear in its trending section. In this case, neither Wikipedia nor the Wikimedia Foundation are part of a formal partnership with YouTube.

This isn't the first time the company said it would use Wikipedia articles to fact-check videos. The latest move by Google in this area will see information from Wikipedia and other websites displayed alongside such videos in the interests of balance.

"Finding ways to counter conspiracy theories and media manipulation efforts is critical and I applaud YouTube's acknowledgment of the problem", said Whitney Phillips, a professor at Mercer University who studies online trolling and digital culture. As such, YouTube is unlikely to ban misinformation entirely. Will we consider the Wikipedia as a final weapon against "round Earth conspiracy"? While you might expect it to look something like a link in the description, what YouTube is doing here seems more significant.

It's unclear if Wikipedia will make any changes to its process. She said early in the interview that she considers YouTube more of a library, something educational, which sounds nearly quaint-but it has surpassed that analogy. Wikipedia - a crowdsourced encyclopedia written by volunteers - is an imperfect source of information, one which most college students are still forbidden from citing in their papers. To deal with that, Wojcicki says YouTube is offering these contractors "wellness benefits", though the nature of those benefits aren't clear.

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