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YouTube: Fueling California Fire Conspiracies

YouTube has come under fire for fueling conspiracy theory videos related to the California wildfires. Videos suggesting that the California wildfires were ignited by government laser beams have been viewed millions of times. When searching for clips regarding the fires, the video sharing site’s top results include conspiracy theories and fake news.

The media outlet Motherboard conducted an investigation that revealed that YouTube has not prevented these conspiracy theories from proliferating. Although 80 people have lost their lives in the California wildfires and 500 people are still missing in the town of Paradise, users who sought updates about the fire were suggested videos involving “conspiracy 2018,” “directed energy weapon,” and “laser beam.”

The video sharing site’s algorithms can be influenced by content creators to make videos go viral. However, YouTube stated that its breaking news section is generated from dependable sources. “Over the last year we’ve worked to better surface credible news sources across our site for people searching for news-related topics,” YouTube claimed.

YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki vowed to take a stand against fake news previously this year. Instead of making a substantial change in the video sharing site’s algorithm, Wojcicki planned to supply Wikipedia links that challenged the conspiracy theories beside the videos. But users have yet to see any Wikipedia links attached to these videos, stating “I just searched for ‘chemtrails,’ one of the subjects she mentioned, and the first result was a conspiracy theory video. There were plenty more in the “up next” bar alongside it. But no sign of Wikipedia.”

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