We all know how easy it is to spend hours watching videos on YouTube. Why do we go down that rabbit hole? Mostly because of a combination of computer programming and marketing know-how called ALGORITHMS.
TEACHERS: Learn more about this topic and how you might teach it with your students via one of our free summer PD courses: https://teach.kqed.org/misinformation-course-collection/
What are algorithms?
Algorithms are sets of instructions (created by people) that decide what content you see, and the order it’s listed, when you search online.
How do recommendation algorithms work on YouTube?
YouTube’s algorithm captures data about videos you watch, including how long you watch. They recommend other videos based on that viewing history. They optimize advertising by selling this data to companies so they can better target you for their products.
How do these algorithms play a role in spreading misinformation?
Digital platforms like YouTube are the gatekeepers of information, whether they intended to be or not. And media-savvy con artists and extremists groups—like conspiracy theorists and white supremacists—can take advantage of YouTube’s algorithms to push their agendas.
What are data voids?
Propagandists often take advantage of a lack of content on a certain topic—a “data void.” This happens a lot with breaking news. It takes time for legit media outlets to fact-check and verify events and create content. Until then, Youtube will often only have false or misleading information.
What can I do to avoid falling for misinformation?
The more precise you are with search keywords, the more likely you are to get relevant information. If your results look suspicious or click-baity, you might be in a data void. YouTube can be a good place to start your research, but you should use a wider range of sources.