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Google, YouTube intensify efforts vs misinformation ahead of PH elections

Technology company Google and its video platform YouTube have removed 400,000 videos that violated community guidelines. From February 2021 to January 2022, videos that spread false information with the intent of misleading voters were monitored and removed.

According to YouTube, its elections misinformation policies prohibit content that “encourages others to interfere with democratic processes and contains hacked information, the disclosure of which may interfere with democratic processes, among others.

“Political news and events can be subject to misinformation,” said Emily Moxley, VP for Product Management, YouTube. “The availability of authoritative information sources is crucial. Over the last few years, we’ve made deep investments to make YouTube a more reliable source for news, while also maintaining the openness of the platform.”

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YouTube has been continually blamed for videos that spread false information to advance an individual’s (candidate) interest.

“YouTube’s systems are designed to limit the spread of borderline content and harmful misinformation,” the video platform said. “Today, consumption of borderline content that comes from its recommendations is significantly below 1% globally.”

Months ahead of the Philippines’ national election, Google has rolled out efforts to fight misinformation and disinformation including webinars and fact-checking campaigns. It also provided digital tools to equip journalists with solutions that will vet the veracity of information and raise the standards of reporting.

With YouTube reporting an increase in usage the past two years during the pandemic, it provides voters tools that will enable them to be more discerning in their choices come election day.

To connect people to authoritative election-related information, YouTube provides a variety of Election Information Panels:

  • Candidate information panel: When YouTube viewers in the Philippines search for the names of President and Vice President candidates, a relevant candidate information panel will show at the top of their search results. This panel highlights information on the candidates, such as their political party and what office they’re running for. Information about candidates and parties is sourced from vetted, non-partisan, third-party sources.
  • How to vote information panel: To help people learn more about the voting process, an information panel surfaces on YouTube for all searches pertaining to “how to vote”. These panels will link to the Commissions on Elections’ (COMELEC) website featuring relevant materials, requirements, and the step-by-step of the voting process.

This is part of the existing portfolio of features that YouTube has rolled out in the country, aimed at raising authoritative information. These include Top News and Breaking News shelves for fast-moving, breaking news events; information panels that indicate funding sources from publishers that receive public or government funding; and information panels giving topical context that links to third party sources such as Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, for videos on a number of well-established topics that can be prone to misinformation including the Holocaust, the Apollo moon landing, and Martial Law in the Philippines.

“Over the last few years, we’ve made deep investments to make YouTube a more reliable source for news, while also maintaining the openness of the platform,” Moxley said. “Our work is ongoing and we are committed to making YouTube a vibrant and safe community for a healthy political discourse as well as help protect the integrity of elections.”

Fact-checking initiatives

The Google News Initiative (GNI) supports Meedan’s #FactsFirstPH, a coalition of more than 100 groups, including news organizations such as Rappler, civil society organizations, business groups, faith-based communities, research groups, and legal organizations to fight misinformation ahead of the Philippine elections. The GNI has also partnered with the University of the Philippines (UP) to launch a journalist training series and provided support to tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project led by UP.

Investing in media literacy programs

Google has been investing in and supporting local media literacy programs to teach people how to identify trusted information. These include the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication’s “a day in the life” video series and training for news literacy, and CANVAS’ #YOUTHink magazine. Google.org also made a grant of $1.5 million to help the ASEAN Foundation expand media literacy education in ASEAN member communities including the Philippines. The ASEAN Foundation has also developed a digital literacy comic book available in Filipino.

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