YouTube to add Wikipedia background info on conspiracy videos

YouTube is taking action on the proliferation of conspiracy videos found on its platform: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told an SXSW panel Tuesday that the company would be introducing so-called “information cues” sourced from relevant Wikipedia articles on videos that talk about popular conspiracy theories.

These will appear as text boxes that can prevent alternative perspectives on subjects including chemtrails and the supposedly fake Moon landing, both of which were used as examples to show how this would work in practice during the panel. The info pop-up appears below the video but above the title and description, giving it a certain amount of prominence in the interface.

The YouTube CEO didn’t go into detail about how many conspiracy theories will be covered by the feature, but praised the format’s extensibility, suggesting that it could grow to expand as many as needed, and that it could also introduce alternate information sources in addition to Wikipedia.

Some critics are pointing out that this looks less like a solution to YouTube’s role perpetuating and legitimizing batshit crazy ideas, and more like a way for it to absolve itself of a responsibility of taking a more critical look at the problem. In fact, the examples YouTube itself provided on stage seem to back up this criticism, since the Moon landing video contained only a brief couple of sentences (one cut in half) visible on the video itself, the content of which doesn’t even necessarily counter the info shared by the conspiracist who posted the video.

The bottom line is that all social platforms relying on user-generated content will eventually become completely co-opted and unusable.