Alphabet proved once again on Wednesday that the algorithms it relies on to promote “credible” content while burying videos produced by “unreliable” (read: conservative or antiestablishment) sources are far from perfect.
As Bloomberg reported, gun-control advocates heaped criticism upon YouTube after it promoted a video with a title that suggested a teenage survivor of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla. was a paid actor. The teen, David Hogg, has been making the media rounds since the shooting, even turning down an invitation to meet with President Donald Trump in favor of attending a CNN-hosted town hall.
The video shows David Hogg, a student who has spoken out for gun control after the attack that killed 17 in Parkland, Florida, in a Los Angeles TV news clip from last summer. A description of the video read, “DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR….” Below the video, YouTube’s algorithm suggested viewers watch a clip with similar claims. The first video spent several hours at the top of YouTube’s “Trending” section before being removed on Wednesday.
But not only did the video make it into the trending section, it was briefly the No. 1 top trending video in the entire US.
— maxwell (@maxwellstrachan) February 21, 2018
“This video should never have appeared in Trending. Because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source, our system misclassified it,” a spokeswoman for Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube wrote in an emailed statement. “As soon as we became aware of the video, we removed it from Trending and from YouTube for violating our policies. We are working to improve our systems moving forward.”
Of course, Congress last year exacted promises from Google, Facebook and Twitter to do a better job cracking down on suspicious or disingenuous content after discovering that a Russian troll farm that has since been indicted spent less than a quarter million dollars to “sow chaos” by posting hysterical or otherwise salacious content on their platforms that OCCASIONALLY included posts with a pro-Trump slant.
Since then, Google in particular has implemented several policy changes aimed at stamping out misinformation – or at least information that doesn’t agree with the dominant cultural assumptions in Silicon Valley. It also introduced what the company described as measures that would help more credible news sources become more visible.
The footage in the Hogg video that triggered YouTube’s algorithm first appeared on CBS, though it was uploaded as part of an apparently unauthorized video.
Of course, just because claims that Hogg is a paid actor have been effectively debunked, doesn’t mean observers should take every word uttered by the teenage survivor as gospel. Just like all people, Hogg has biases and – in this case – he has several that deserve to be pointed out.
As Hogg revealed to CNN (and SHTFplan pointed out) the anti-gun activist’s father is a former FBI agent.
“I think it’s disgusting, personally. My father’s a retired FBI agent and the FBI are some of the hardest working individuals I have ever seen in my life,” proclaimed David Hogg to CNN. “It’s wrong that the president is blaming them for this.”
Knowing this paints his anti-Trump advocacy in a whole new light.
As SHTFplan says…
Our job is not to tell you what to think, but to present information so you can come to your own conclusions. Does this look like a child of a former FBI agent is being used as a pawn in the war against the people to curb the rights of those who literally committed no crime? You decide.
Hogg will appear on CNN tonight with several of his classmates to debate the NRA’s Dana Loesch and several other anti-gun control activists.