YouTube is trying to stop people seeing Las Vegas conspiracy theories

The company changed its algorithm in the wake of the shooting, reports claim

Emily Shugerman
New York
Friday 06 October 2017 17:13
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Police tape blocks an entrance at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Caisno
Police tape blocks an entrance at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Caisno

YouTube has changed its secretive search algorithms in response to the spread of conspiracy theory videos about the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

The home-video behemoth came under fire in the wake of the shooting, when several unsubstantiated claims made their way into the top new results about the massacre. Videos such as "Proof Las Vegas Shooting Was a FALSE FLAG attack—Shooter on 4th Floor" made it into the “Top News” section on Tuesday, just two days after the shooting occured, according to the Wall St Journal.

But YouTube has since changed its search algorithms to promote more reputable news, a source close to the company told The Independent. The changes had been planned for months, the source added, but were moved up in the wake of the shooting.

By Friday, the top ten results for “Las Vegas shooting” all came from news outlets, or contained direct uploads of footage from the event.

But the company is still working on its “Up Next” feature, which suggests related content to watch at the end of a video, according to the Journal. On Friday, watching a video titled “Las Vegas Shooting: 6 QUESTIONS - False Flag? Multiple Shooters? Paddock patsy?” lead to suggested videos like “A False Flag Patsy Event Is Unfolding Before Our Eyes” and “CNN Crisis Actor Caught Red Handed”.

Suggested videos are displayed next to a YouTube video titled "Las Vegas Shooting: 6 QUESTIONS"

YouTube uses secret algorithms to determine which videos appear in its “Top News” and “Up Next” section. The company has said publicly that it factors in a video’s popularity and a user’s history when choosing which videos to display, but has declined to reveal more.

The company says it regularly deletes videos flagged for violating its community guidelines. These guidelines cover everything from nudity to child endangerment, but do not discuss conspiracy theories or unverifiable claims. YouTube declined to provide details to The Independent on its standards regarding conspiracy theories.

The company told the Guardian, however, that a video called “Las Vegas ‘Shooting’ … Did It Actually Happen?” did not violate its standards. The video – which questions whether the shooting was “faked” by paid actors – had amassed almost 350,000 views by Friday morning.

The company did pull the aforementioned video calling the shooting a “false flag attack," however. YouTube also gave the creator's account a penalty strike. Accounts that receive more than three strikes are terminated.

The video’s creator, Jake Morphonios, claimed the clip garnered 2.5m views before it was deleted. He pushed back against the video's deletion, saying he was simply offering an opinion.

“I’m not presenting myself as mainstream media,” Mr Morphonios told the Journal. “I’m just a guy with a computer offering an opinion. And to be punished for that is, well, it’s draconian.”

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