SAN FRANCISCO — Whether it is a video claiming the earth is flat or the moon landing was faked, conspiracy theories are not hard to find on Google’s YouTube. But in a significant policy change, YouTube said on Friday that it planned to stop recommending them.
After years of criticism that YouTube leads viewers to videos that spread misinformation, the company said it was changing what videos it recommended to users. In a blog post, YouTube said it would no longer suggest videos with “borderline content” or those that “misinform users in a harmful way” even if the footage did not violate its community guidelines.
YouTube said the number of videos affected by the policy change amounted to fewer than 1 percent of all videos on the platform. But given the billions of videos in YouTube’s library, it is still a large number.
YouTube and other powerful technology platforms have faced rising criticism for failing to police the content that users post.
YouTube’s recommendation engine has been denounced for pushing users to troubling content even when they showed little interest in such videos. It has also been blamed for widening the political divide in the country, pushing already partisan viewers to more extreme points of view.
The new policy is also the latest example of YouTube’s taking a more aggressive approach to content that many find distasteful even if it is not in violation of the service’s community guidelines.
In late 2017, YouTube started putting “controversial religious or supremacist” content in a “limited state” so the videos are not monetized with advertising, and features such as comments and likes are turned off. Some videos appear behind a brief message saying the videos may be inappropriate or offensive.
YouTube provided only three examples of the types of videos that it would stop recommending: those promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, ones claiming the earth is flat or content making blatantly false claims about historic events like the Sept. 11 attacks.'
Read more: YouTube Moves to Make Conspiracy Videos Harder to Find
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