House Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee are again pushing YouTube to explain its policies around extremist content. In a letter sent to Google CEO Sundar Pichai Wednesday, the committee leaders said that "incendiary content that indoctrinates, radicalizes, and mobilizes extremists continues to flourish" on the platform. "YouTube should make meaningful reforms to its policies and strengthen enforcement efforts to eradicate dangerous extremist and alternative content on its platform," the lawmakers write. "Gaining users, maintaining engagement, and generating more advertising revenue cannot come at the expense of our national security." The letter also lays out several detailed questions about the company's policies around extremist content and how it enforces those rules.
Facebook's disinformation problem is not the result of a few bad apples. So argue two members of Congress in a scathing letter aimed at the tech giant. Representatives Anna G. Eshoo of California and Tom Malinowski of New Jersey hit Facebook with a written broadside Thursday, accusing the company of systemic failures which radicalized the "insurrectionist mob" behind the Jan. 6 attack attack of the U.S. Capitol building. Addressed directly to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the letter makes clear that the Representatives hold him personally responsible for the current abysmal state of the digital information ecosystem. "Perhaps no single entity is more responsible for the spread of dangerous conspiracy theories at scale or for inflaming anti-government grievance than the one that you started and that you oversee today as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer," reads the letter.
Texas house representative Ted Poe got a little heated while questioning CEO Sundar Pichai about Google's data tracking capabilities. Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Washington. SAN FRANCISCO – Google's chief executive officer Sundar Pichai rejected claims of political bias against conservatives while emphasizing the American roots of the internet company in his first-ever appearance before Congress. Again and again, Pichai stressed during the Tuesday hearing that Google operates "without political bias," as Republican lawmakers hammered him over allegations that the search engine manipulates results to show conservatives in a negative light or suppresses the viewpoints of right-leaning voices. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, signaled the hearing's focus on political bias in his opening statement, raising allegations that Google's search algorithms favor "the political party it likes, the ideas it likes or the products it likes."
Almost since its founding, Twitter has regarded itself as a platform for news; watershed moments in the company's history included the Arab Spring and a 2011 East Coast earthquake. Facebook began talking as early as 2013 about wanting to be a sort of "personalized newspaper," only to realize more recently that separating real news from propaganda was harder than it had anticipated. Both companies have spent much of the past year reckoning with their roles in spreading hoaxes, facilitating election interference, and fueling societal division and extremism. Google's YouTube, in contrast, has until recently managed to skirt the brunt of the criticism that rival social media platforms have faced. As a result, it has been relatively slow to grapple with the implications of its role as a source of news--and, inevitably, of misinformation.
File photo: Youtube logo is seen on an android mobile phone. YouTube is again claiming it'll tweak its recommendation system to promote fewer conspiracy videos. The Google-owned service announced the change after BuzzFeed published a report detailing how YouTube's recommendation systems can lead you down a "rabbit hole" of misinformation and politically charged content. "We'll begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways--such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the Earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11," the company said in a Friday blog post. What will be different this time isn't clear.