One viral thread shows how quickly YouTube's recommendations steer people to conspiracy theories and false information (GOOG, GOOGL)

Susan Wojcicki

  • YouTube has been under fire for promoting conspiracy theories in its search and suggestions.
  • In a viral Twitter thread, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes demonstrates how quickly a simple search can return wild misinformation.
  • YouTube said it is „aware“ of the issues after being contacted by Business Insider. 

The Federal Reserve is a critically important body for the global economy that’s also frequently misunderstood.

So what happens when you visit the biggest video website in the world, YouTube, which is owned by Google, and look for some basic information about the US central bank?

If you thought you might learn about the Fed’s dual mandates for shaping monetary policy, or about the 12 regional banks in the Federal Reserve System, you’d be mistaken.

Instead, what you’ll get is a jumble of harebrained conspiracy theories and misinformation, as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes pointed out in a series of tweets that are going viral.

All you have to do is type „Federal Reserve“ into YouTube to tumble into the bizarre rabbit hole. As Hayes points out, this is pretty worrisome if you imagine a student, or any other well-meaning citizen, trying to educate themselves on the topic. 

Follow along with Hayes‘ thread below, as he demonstrates step-by-step how easily someone can unwittingly be steered by YouTube into the world of the lunatic fringe: 

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Business Insider was able to recreate all of Hayes‘ findings in an up-to-date Chrome browser in Incognito Mode on Friday. 

And the problem is even broader than what Hayes described.

Hayes‘ example was based on clicking the top video search result for „Federal Reserve.“ But most of the other search results YouTube serves up on the page are equally problematic.

YouTube Fed

The top result, which is a paid ad, is from Marginal Revolution University, which is a respected blog run by economists from George Mason University. While the video may take its own stance on controversial topics, it’s not going to present any outright misinformation. 

There’s also a 2013 documentary that appears to be a ripped version of a movie that’s on sale from YouTube for $2.99. This video also seems like it’s based on reliable information. 

But that video’s 176,000 views are dwarfed by three videos that are purely conspiratorial — the aforementioned „Century of Enslavement,“ at 1.6 million views, „The Creature from Jekyll Island,“ with 557,000 views, and „The Federal Reserve Explained in 3 Minutes,“ with 794,058 views.

Hayes isn’t the only person to encounter this exact issue with finding reliable information on YouTube. A comment on that last video:

my finance teacher

What’s funny is that Google’s search results for „Federal Reserve“ are far superior, with links to the actual official Federal Reserve website, tweets from the Federal Reserve, a Wikipedia article, and news articles from reliable sources like Bloomberg and Business Insider.

YouTube has been swept up in recent controversies about misinformation and disinformation on large platforms. In July, it announced new features including a „news shelf“ on top of search results with links to reliable articles and additional context.

„We said, look, people are coming to our homepage and if we are just showing them videos of gaming or music and something really significant happened in the world, and we are not showing it to them, then in many ways we’re missing this opportunity,“ YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March. 

After an inquiry from Business Insider, YouTube representative Chris Dale said the team was aware of the issues.  „Hey @chrislhayes. We’re definitely aware and our engineering team is working to improve things. We rolled authoritative ranking for breaking news and news queries. We’ll build out to other topics, but it will take time,“ he tweeted, adding a link to this announcement page.

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Until then, if you want reliable information about the Federal Reserve, and how it sets interest rates and encourages full employment, check out this informative Business Insider article

SEE ALSO: Twitter dropped the hammer on Alex Jones and permanently kicked him off its service

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Source: Business insider

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