As COVID-19 misinformation grows, YouTube brings video fact-checking to the US

Brian Heater

In a blog post today, YouTube announced that it’s finally bringing its fact-checking information panels to the U.S. First introduced in Brazil and India, the expansion comes as COVID-19-related misinformation and conspiracy has proliferated online and through certain media.

Fact-check articles will begin appearing in relevant search results, using information pulled from a dozen or so third-party publishers, including The Dispatch, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and The Washington Post Fact Checker. The site is leveraging ClaimReview’s article tagging system, which is also used by Google Search/New, Bing and Facebook.

In the post, YouTube specifically cites concerns around COVID-19-related misinformation as a driving force in the feature’s expansion, noting the difficulty in keeping up with a rapidly changing news cycle.

“Our fact check information panels provide fresh context in these situations by highlighting relevant, third-party fact-checked articles above search results for relevant queries, so that our viewers can make their own informed decision about claims made in the news,” the company writes.

The move doesn’t directly involve the take down of offending videos. Instead the plan is to offer users context as they search for information on a given subject. The feature will no doubt have mixed results, depending on how committed a user is to a given theory or source. People who are already dug in on notions of COVID-19 as a hoax are not likely to be swayed by contextual information from PolitiFact or The Washington Post. That's just the nature of the post-information hellscape in which we all currently reside. 

It echoes a similar move from Facebook earlier this month, which alerts users when they’ve interacted with “harmful misinformation” about the virus. Twitter, too, has expanded its own guidelines around coronavirus-related tweets, removing some of the offending misinformation around theories involving things like 5G.

YouTube says the new feature "will take some time for our systems to fully ramp up." That involves both refining the system, the features efficacy and eventually rolling it out into even more markets.