YouTube cracks down on coronavirus content amid staff cuts, increased AI reliance
March 18, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – As the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to dramatically alter the practices of a wide range of businesses, internet giant Google has undertaken a balancing act between protecting its own employees and monitoring “misinformation” on the pandemic, with mixed results.
Google was part of a joint statement with other tech giants, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, and Twitter, vowing to band together to fight “fraud and misinformation about the virus” while “elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world.”
These efforts include a 24-hour “incident response team” to promote accurate information and take down erroneous content, and Google’s sister site Verily partnering with the federal government to develop an online tool to evaluate fears about potential cases and evaluate the need for testing.
On October 16, Google announced that it was taking a variety of steps to reduce the need for workers to physically come into its offices, among them a temporary increase in its “reliance on automated systems” to “review content on our platforms, like YouTube.” YouTube elaborated that these systems “will start removing some content without human review,” although such removals won’t accompany account strikes “except in cases where we have high confidence that it’s violative.”
News 18 reported that to curb the dissemination of phony or otherwise-unreliable apps on the subject, Google has taken to censoring search results for “coronavirus,” “COVID 19,” and “COVID-19” on the Google Play store (but not “COVID19” without spaces). In doing so, they inadvertently blocked users from finding and downloading the official CNN and U.S. Centers for Disease Control apps, as well as the apps for news sites such as NHK World Japan, News Republic, and Channel News Asia.
The company also said that, per its “sensitive events” policy, videos with “more than a passing mention of the coronavirus” will be ineligible for monetization, a reveal panned by critics.
“Some commenters wondered if the demonetization would hit only smaller creators, while big media outlets and ‘late night hosts’ would still be able to discuss coronavirus, and continue to make money on YouTube,” Reclaim the Net’s Didi Rankovic wrote. “According to these rules, sensitive events are ‘atrocious acts that result in the loss of human lives’ – mass shootings, armed conflict, death, tragic events, and terrorist acts.”
Rankovic fears this “deliberately broad and vague language” could be used to “demonetize every channel dealing with current news in pretty much any format.”