YouTube was criticised after promoting a video with a title that suggested a teenage survivor of last week's Florida school shooting was a paid actor, the latest sign of Google's ongoing struggle to suppress conspiracy theories on its massive video site.
The video shows David Hogg, a student who has spoken out for gun control after the attack that killed 17 in Parkland, Florida, in a Los Angeles TV news clip from last summer. A description of the video read, "DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR...." Below the video, YouTube's algorithm suggested viewers watch a clip with similar claims. The first video spent several hours at the top of YouTube's "Trending" section before being removed yesterday.
"This video should never have appeared in Trending. Because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source, our system misclassified it," a spokeswoman for Alphabet's YouTube wrote in an emailed statement. "As soon as we became aware of the video, we removed it from Trending and from YouTube for violating our policies. We are working to improve our systems moving forward."
Over the past year, Google has implemented a number of policy changes aimed at stamping out misinformation and misleading content in its search results and other online properties. YouTube also introduced measures to move more verified news sources to the top of search results. Yesterday's trending video of Hogg, however, was footage from a CBS TV news affiliate, although the video was not uploaded by a verified news channel.
After it was removed a search for "David Hogg" still generated several videos claiming the Florida teenager is an actor.