YouTube is responding to criticism about prominently displaying unverified reports and misinformation in search results in the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Tex.
Various outlets pointed out on Monday that some of the top search results on YouTube for video news about the deadly shooting included videos from right-wing channels spreading misinformation about the alleged shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, such as unverified claims that he is a member of the leftist anti-fascist “antifa” movement. As Washington Post tech reporter Hamza Shaban pointed out on Twitter, some of the YouTube videos with unverified claims about the shooter were still featured prominently in YouTube search results as late as Monday afternoon, a day after the shootings.
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In a statement, YouTube said it is still tweaking its search feature to ensure that it only promotes verified news sources in the wake of high-profile events like Sunday’s tragic shooting. “We’re continuing to invest in new features and changes to YouTube search that provide authoritative results when people come to YouTube looking for news,” a YouTube spokeswoman said in a statement to Fortune. “So far this year we have introduced new features that promote verified news sources when a major news event happens. These sources are presented on the YouTube homepage, under ‘Breaking News,’ and featured in search results, with the label ‘Top News.’ Additionally, we’ve been rolling out algorithmic changes to YouTube search during breaking news events.”
“There is still more work to do, but we’re making progress,” the spokeswoman added.
YouTube’s parent, Google, is investing heavily in improving its search algorithm to avoid promoting unverified or controversial video content, especially in the wake of a tragic news event. Last month, Google and Facebook were both criticized for mistakenly spreading misinformation after the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, and YouTube’s parent also faced criticism again this week for promoting propaganda and unfounded claims about Kelley under the top Twitter post results featured on Google’s online search engine. Google said in a separate statement on Monday that the company will also “look at ways to improve how we rank tweets that appear in search.”