[Originally posted 5 Oct 2017] Lauren's Blog: "Vegas Shooting Horror:
Fixing YouTube's Continuing Fake News Problem"


In the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas last Sunday,
survivors, relatives, and observers in general were additionally
horrified to see disgusting, evil, fake news videos quickly trending
on YouTube, some rapidly accumulating vast numbers of views.

Falling squarely into the category of lying hate speech, these videos
presented preposterous and hurtful allegations, including false claims
of responsibility, faked video imagery, declarations that the attack
was a "false flag" conspiracy, and similar disgusting nonsense.

At a time when the world was looking for accurate information, YouTube
was trending this kind of bile to the top of related search results.
I've received emails from Google users who report YouTube pushing
links to some of those trending fake videos directly to their phones
as notifications.

YouTube's scale is enormous, and the vast rivers of video being
uploaded into its systems every minute means that a reliance on
automated algorithms is an absolute necessity in most cases. Public
rumors now circulating suggest that Google is trying again to tune
these mechanisms to help avoid pushing fake news into high trending
visibility, perhaps by giving additional weight to generally
authoritative news sources. This of course can present its own
problems, since it might tend to exclude, for example, perfectly
legitimate personal "eyewitness" videos of events that could be
extremely useful if widely viewed as quickly as possible.

In the months since last March when I posted "What Google Needs to Do
About YouTube Hate Speech" -


Google has wisely taken steps to more strictly enforce its YouTube
Terms of Service, particularly in respect to monetization and search
visibility of such videos.

However, it's clear that there's still much work for Google to do in
this area, especially when it comes to trending videos (both generally
and in specific search results) when major news events have occurred.

Despite Google's admirable "machine learning" acumen, it's difficult
to see how the most serious of these situations can be appropriately
handled without some human intervention.

It doesn't take much deep thought or imagination to jot down a list
of, let's say, the top 50 controversial topics that are the most
likely to suffer from relatively routine "contamination" of trending
lists and results from fake news videos and other hate speech.

My own sense is that under normal circumstances, the "churn" at and
near the top of some trending lists and results is relatively low.
I've noted in past posts various instances of hate speech videos that
have long lingered at the top of such lists and gathered very large
view counts as a result.

I believe that the most highly ranked trending YouTube topics should
be subject to ongoing human review on a frequent basis (appropriate
review intervals to be determined).

In the case of major news stories such as the Vegas massacre, related
trending topics should be immediately and automatically frozen. No
related changes to the high trending video results that preceded the
event should be permitted in the immediate aftermath (and for some
additional period as well) without human "sanity checking" and human
authorization. If necessary, those trending lists and results should
be immediately rolled back to remove any "fake news" videos that had
quickly snuck in before "on-call" humans were notified to take charge.

By restricting this kind of human intervention to the most serious
cases, scaling issues that might otherwise seem prohibitive should be
manageable. We can assume that Google systems must already notify
specified Googlers when hardware or software need immediate attention.

Much the same kind of priority-based paradigm should apply to quickly
bring humans into the loop when major news events otherwise could
trigger rapid degeneration of trending lists and results.

Lauren Weinstein (lau...@vortex.com): https://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Lauren's Blog: https://lauren.vortex.com
Google Issues Mailing List: https://vortex.com/google-issues
Founder: Network Neutrality Squad: https://www.nnsquad.org 
         PRIVACY Forum: https://www.vortex.com/privacy-info
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: https://www.pfir.org/pfir-info
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Google+: https://google.com/+LaurenWeinstein
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein
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