Confirming an unusual screenshot which circulated earlier this week, YouTube has officially announced its intentions to mark content from certain news agencies as “funded in whole or in part” by whatever state happens to be their patron. In short, the platform is calling out propaganda.
Image: Google / Gizmodo
YouTube also intends to similarly mark news agencies that receive some or all of their funding from the public. At some level, it seems fundamentally unfair to deploy the same UI feature casting scepticism on the agendas of state actors to, say, NPR. “The notice will appear below the video, but above the video’s title, and include a link to Wikipedia so viewers can learn more,” the post explains, which surely will not lead to more vandalism of Wikipedia.
Some YouTube users are apparently seeing this notification when viewing videos posted by @RT_com. For the ambiguity, you can thank the laughably vague paperwork submitted by RT’s American subsidiary when it registered under FARA. pic.twitter.com/ForQWm7afn
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) January 31, 2018
Besides potentially drawing a visual parallel between the output of public-funded news and state-sponsored agitprop, YouTube’s transparency effort does nothing to combat disinformation from other funding vectors: Info Wars, for example. The role tech platforms played in the 2016 US election has at this point been conflated with the incursion of Russian interference by government-funded news and troll farms, but private American media was just as much a factor in the spread of conspiracies, and one YouTube hasn’t found a fix for.
Currently the feature is only being rolled out to US users and appears to still be in a limited beta, so the only agencies we can confirm to be affected are RT (formerly Russia Today), based on a screenshot which made it to Twitter, as well as the Radio Free Asia example provided in YouTube’s blog post.
YouTube declined to provide a list of news agencies affected by the change.