Monday, February 25, 2019

Can YouTube Solve Its Serious Climate Science Denial Problem?

Given that climate denial videos take positions contradicted by every major scientific academy in the world, many scientists would surely hope that YouTube takes “blatantly false claims” about climate change as seriously as it does flat earthers or 9/11 truthers.

Using machine learning and a team of humans, YouTube has said it is rolling out changes just in the U.S., and this would affect only a “small set of videos in the United States.”

In 2018 YouTube started adding pop-up links to Wikipedia, with brief factual descriptions, to some climate change videos.  As reported by BuzzFeed, this angered some producers, including PragerU.

Craig Strazzeri, PragerU’s chief marketing officer, told BuzzFeed:  “Despite claiming to be a public forum and a platform open to all, YouTube is clearly a left-wing organization.”

“This is just another mistake in a long line of giant missteps that erodes America’s trust in Big Tech, much like what has already happened with the mainstream news media.”

Clearly, for PragerU, it is more important to politicize YouTube’s mild attempts to correct misinformation with a tiny pop-up message than to get its facts straight.

Echo Chambers
“YouTube and other social media platforms have exacerbated the misinformation problem in a number of ways — whether it's creating echo chambers for science denial, making it easy for misinformers to micro-target audiences, or funneling its users to extremist content,” says Dr. John Cook of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication.

“In the case of YouTube, their algorithms result in extremist content like climate denial receiving millions of views.  However, YouTube's response has been entirely inadequate. Adding a generic link to Wikipedia under denialist videos is like slapping a tiny bandaid on a large, open wound.”

While at the University of Queensland in Australia, Cook led a study showing that 97 percent of climate scientists agreed that global warming was caused by human activity.  Cook also led the production of a free Massive Online Open Course, through the university, to explain the science of climate denial, producing many debunking videos that also appear on YouTube.

“It's a challenging problem,” says Cook.  “Interventions like adding a ‘fake news’ warning on online misinformation can actually backfire and promote the myth.”

“Nevertheless, there is a great deal of research into how to inoculate the public against misinformation without triggering adverse effects.”

He says platforms like YouTube should be working work with misinformation researchers to develop strategies that “reduce the negative impact on society” of climate denial videos.

For now though, YouTube has a serious climate science denial problem. 

Read much more at Can YouTube Solve Its Serious Climate Science Denial Problem?

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