In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, YouTube announced Thursday that its homepage will now feature a news shelf of trustworthy COVID-19 coverage for users to easily source up-to-date news.
“We want everyone to have access to authoritative content during this trying time,” YouTube tweeted. This dedicated hub launched in 16 countries Thursday, with plans to roll it out to additional countries in the future, the company continued. Several COVID-19 informational and safety videos posted in the past week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently appear there for American users.
Social media platforms have recently had their hands trying to keep potentially dangerous coronavirus misinformation from running rampant on their platforms. Last month, Facebook announced a platform-wide crackdown on misleading ads for products claiming to prevent or even cure COVID-19, and others such as Twitter and Reddit now place links to credible sources either on their respective homepages or at the top of search results for anything related to the outbreak.
Earlier this week, YouTube was also one of several big tech companies, including Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and Microsoft, to announce a joint commitment to promoting credible content and updates and curbing the kind of fearmongering rumors that have already led to multiple lockdown false alarms. It’s unclear whether this new widget is part of this initiative.
Critics have often cited YouTube’s video recommendation algorithm as a digital megaphone for promoting dubious conspiracy theories and radicalizing viewers by sending them down crackpot video-viewing rabbit holes. Several coronavirus hoaxes have already gone viral on the platform, from the xenophobic (that the respiratory illness is secretly some sort of Chinese bioweapon) to the downright bizarre (that it’s all that radiation from 5G causing the outbreak, man!).
After a recent crackdown on “borderline content”, YouTube appears to be sending fewer folks to these kinds of bogus videos, though it’s still struggling with what kinds of coronavirus coverage is worth flagging. After a controversial blanket decision to demonetize any video that mentioned the outbreak per YouTube’s “sensitive content” policy, this week the platform announced that monetization would reopen for a small number of news partners that “accurately self-certify.”