Happy Friday! 💃 Here's what everyone's been talking about this week...
YouTube finally joined conspiracy theory whack-a-mole
The truth is often boring-- and creators know that. YouTube knows that too, but so far it has done little to spread the rumours and misinformation that have blown up on its platform from users desperate for clicks and ad revenue.
Given that 26% of US adults now get their news from YouTube, the has been suspiciously quiet over the past few months, and has chosen to stand back to let Twitter and Facebook take the flak.
But yesterday, YouTube announced that it is stepping up and removing conspiracy theory content "used to justify real-world violence". But the platform has stopped short of banning videos promoting conspiracy theories outright. Instead, it will focus on material that "targets individuals or groups".
"As always, context matters, so news coverage on these issues or content discussing them without targeting individuals or protected groups may stay up. We will begin enforcing this updated policy today, and will ramp up in the weeks to come," YouTube said in a statement on its blog.
Earlier this week, YouTube also announced that any claims about Covid vaccinations that contradict the World Health Organisation (WHO) will be removed. According to a spokesperson, YouTube has removed over 200,000 videos related to dangerous or misleading Covid-19 information since early February.
YouTube has previously been heavily criticised for its mediocre misinformation policies, which are essentially boxes under videos that link to Wikipedia pages.
(Remember all those years ago when we were told that Wikipedia was the biggest source of misinformation on the web? Hah. If only we knew what was coming.)
After botching the NY Post response, Twitter announced an update to its Hacked Materials Policy 👩💻
This week, the New York Post released a story about a laptop that allegedly belonged to Hunter Biden, and the internet lost its shit.
This isn't the first time Biden has been targeted throughout his campaign. Many people were rightly suspicious about this story, and both Facebook and Twitter were quick to crack down. However, they took significantly different approaches.
Facebook didn't prevent users from sharing the article. Instead, it flagged them for third-party fact checkers to review in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of the article appearing on users' newsfeeds. Of course, the moment you tell people they can't read something, they all immediately go and find ways to read it. After the announcement was made by Andy Stone on Twitter, a Business Insider report revealed that the story was shared over 300,000 times.
Twitter, on the other hand, blocked users from sharing links to the story altogether, citing its hacked materials policy.
It's not the first time Twitter has done this. Back in June, Twitter suspended DDoSecrets, the organisation behind BlueLeaks. They also suspended anyone who shared links or screenshots of BlueLeaks documents. When I wrote about the censorship, Twitter ironically blocked that too.
BlueLeaks exposed real data from 251 publicly funded police websites. And yet, it received a fraction of the attention of the dubious NY Post story. Unlike DDoSecrets' account which has been banned from Twitter, the New York Post account remains intact.
Last night, Twitter's legal, policy and trust and safety lead, Vijaya Gadde, revealed that Twitter would be making changes to its Hacked Materials Policy to "address the concerns that there could be many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter’s purpose of serving the public conversation".
Two big changes were announced:
1. We will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them
2. We will label Tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter
But this raises even more questions. Most notably: how do you tell what is hacked content and what isn't?'
The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to issue a subpoena on Tuesday to Jack Dorsey, claiming that the decision to block the post was "election interference".
I guess that relying on an elite group of Silicon Valley employees to save us all from misinformation was probably never going to end well.
Other big stories this week
Twitter and Facebook announced that they will ban Holocaust denial posts after Zuckerberg revealed his "thinking has evolved". However, the new policy is specific to Holocaust denial -- it seems that denial of other genocides is still...permitted? Great time to be an Armenian Genocide denier, I guess?
India's Extended Reality (XR) startups are booming - With a net worth of $89 billion, Mukesh Ambani is India's richest man. He also founded Reliance Jio, India's biggest telecom network. Reliance Jio has made XR a priority and will be pouring money and development support into the industry over the coming years. Look out, Silicon Valley.
WordPress is rolling out a new feature that allows people to automatically publish their blog posts as Twitter threads. Ever wrote a 1,500-word blog post and thought "hey, this would make a great Twitter thread?" No? Me neither. But now, to the absolute horror of all your Twitter followers, you can turn it into a 70-page thread.