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Google gives YouTube commenters fact checking power – what could go wrong?

YouTube is planning on combatting misinformation on the platform by enabling commenters to add written context.

The new experimental feature announced today appears similar to how community notes enables X (formerly known as Twitter) readers to add context to tweets, which is rated as helpful or not by the community.

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YouTube says the idea is to “provide relevant, timely, and easy-to-understand context on videos” and that a limited number of users will be invited to contribute initially.

Google says examples could include “notes that clarify when a song is meant to be a parody, point out when a new version of a product being reviewed is available, or let viewers know when older footage is mistakenly portrayed as a current event.”

Google says it will use a third-party auditor to assess the effectiveness of the notes, which in turn will help to train Google’s systems to do the job.

YouTube comments

In a blog post, Google explains how the new system will work: “Notes will appear publicly under a video if they’re found to be broadly helpful. People will be asked whether they think a note is “helpful,” “somewhat helpful,” or “unhelpful” and why – for example, whether it cites high-quality sources or is written clearly and neutrally.

“From there, we’ll use a bridging-based algorithm to consider these ratings and determine what notes are published.”

Initially they’ll appear underneath videos in the United States in English, but we can assume they’ll be more broadly rolled out if the pilot proves a success.

Considering that, historically, YouTube commenters haven’t been the most reliable people or friendly people on the internet, those third-party auditors will have their work cut out.

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