YouTube’s Fact Checking Feature Keeps Us All Honest

Katie Pritchard

Director of Client Services, 8+ Years of Client-Facing Project Management & Digital Marketing Expertise

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YouTube’s Fact Checking Feature Keeps Us All Honest Blog Feature

Published on March 12th, 2019

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YouTube has begun testing a new fact-checking feature in India that will appear in search results for topics that are prone to misinformation. Here's more on this new feature, and what it means for marketers.

The Background

Over the past few years, the volume of fake news and “opinion” posts and articles that have appeared online has exploded. Not only do these posts mislead many people, but they’ve made it harder to detect what’s actually factual and what isn’t.

This holds true for news and information published on websites, as well as on profiles and pages on social media platforms, including YouTube.

As we’ve written about before, the amount of video content consumed on the internet has grown greatly over the past two years and is projected to continue to increase in the coming years.

This growth is particularly marked in places like India, where there are millions of first time and new internet users choosing video on YouTube as their preferred medium of content consumption.

With so many new viewers in India using YouTube as their main information source, YouTube took notice and in the course of evaluating their activity, began to see flaws in their search platform that caused channels containing false information to be ranked more highly (and as a result, viewed many times).

One example of this relates to the recent conflict between India and Pakistan, which led millions of Indian citizens to search for information on YouTube only to receive a barrage of videos containing fake or misleading information.

Though YouTube is just a video hosting and sharing platform and does not create any of the content, it considers itself to have a responsibility to provide users with accurate information and it is in this spirit that it is introducing the new fact checking feature.

What's Happening

In an effort to provide its users with a better news experience, YouTube has rolled out a new fact check box in search results for sensitive subjects -- such as vaccinations and terrorist attacks --  that are prone to misinformation.

When users complete a search, YouTube provides an information panel featuring a short synopsis, from a list of third-party verified fact-checkers, of whether the information contained in search results is true or not.

The new fact-checking feature from YouTube is currently only available in India, but is expected to eventually be rolled out globally.

The feature appears in the search results page after someone has typed a query that’s flagged as controversial.

At the top of search results, a small box appears with a link to a source verifying the truth of the query. This snippet provides the user with a brief description and a short, clear statement claiming if it’s false or true.

Screen Shot 2019-03-11 at 12.51.35 PM

(Image source: Buzzfeed)

Content that has been identified as false or misleading will not be removed from YouTube's platform unless it violates YouTube's community guidelines, however the intent of the new information panel is to discourage viewers from viewing that content and/or ensure they understand - when they do view it - that it is not accurate.

Why This Matters

According to a YouTube statement to Buzzfeed, it’s likely that some form of this feature will be rolled out in the U.S. in the near future. And if YouTube finds success, other social media sites such as Facebook may mimic it in the pursuit of a quality experience for their users.

As marketers, there’s two main things to take away from this feature.

1. Avoid Clickbait-y Titles on Videos

If you’re a marketer reading this article, you’re hopefully not creating content that is intentionally misleading users. But, in an effort to intrigue a user to click through from your video title, you may have a clickbait-y title that does not accurately reflect the content contained in the video.

Regardless of YouTube's plans to fact-check, this approach holds real potential to harm your brand image in the future by eroding viewers' trust in your content. Now, with this new move by YouTube, it has the potential to do even more harm.

Even if your video content is truthful, if you have a misleading title and the ‘fact checking feature’ is enabled, there is a possibility that your video could be flagged by YouTube as false or misleading. 

2. Create Reliable Content That Is The Fact-Checking Resource

At this time, it’s not clear exactly how YouTube is choosing its fact checking sources. What IS clear is that content that is accurate, reliable and trustworthy will ultimately be favored by YouTube as it seeks to deliver the best results possible to its users.

As marketers, this presents us with an opportunity to create content that will be seen by YouTube and other platforms as the definitive, reliable source on a given topic.

In general, creating content either verifying or debunking common questions that your audience has can be a great content strategy. Creating this type of content in video form could increase your chances of appearing in this YouTube feature in the future, or even with other platforms that may implement something similar.

The best way to optimize your video content for YouTube, both now and in the future, is to truly understand the questions your audience is asking, create content that honestly answers those questions, word it exactly as they would say it / search for it, and back up your claims with as much information and research as possible.

The Takeaway For Marketers

Put simply, be as honest and helpful as possible.

In the future, maybe your content will appear as YouTube’s fact checking resource. For now, you’ll at least have a valuable piece of video content that your audience will find genuinely helpful.

While the fact-checking feature on YouTube has not yet rolled out to the U.S. market, it’s certainly an interesting development for a major platform and other sites will be watching to see if it’s worth implementing themselves to combat the mass sharing of misleading information.

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