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YouTube tripped up by trending video

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Six days ago, in the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland, Fla., we wrote about the information war
 
February 21 · Issue #88 · View online
The Interface
Six days ago, in the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland, Fla., we wrote about the information war that had sprung up to target the journalists covering it. Now, as survivors of the shooting have begun to coalesce into a new movement to end gun violence, those same information warriors have begun to target them as well. And months after announcing thousands of new hires to help police their services, our biggest social platforms were caught flat-footed.
Motherboard noticed that a video suggesting one of the student activists is a paid actor was the top trending video on YouTube. The video itself was an unrelated local TV news story about the student, David Hogg, “confronting an overzealous lifeguard.”
The only description on the video is “DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR….” and many of the comments go on to accuse Hogg of being an actor “bought and paid by CNN and George Soros.” Mike m, the YouTube user who uploaded this trending video also uploaded a video titled “David Hogg Can’t Remember His Lines When Interviewed for Florida school shooting.” The description to that video reads: “Ask yourself why is he practicing his lines…??? ???” This user also uploaded videos that cover familiar conspiracy theories like chemtrails and UFOs.
The video racked up more than 200,000 views, and its share of Twitter outrage, before YouTube took it down a few hours later. The company apologized:
“This video should never have appeared in Trending. Because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source, our system misclassified it. 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.”
Other big platforms appeared to fare no better, according to an analysis from BuzzFeed.
As of Tuesday night, 108,135 people were talking about “crisis actors” on Facebook. One video had been watched more than 41,000 times and shared by about 2,300 users. Before it was removed, another Facebook post calling Stoneman Douglas senior David Hogg an actor was shared more than 110,000 times. Yet another clip posted on Twitter got more than 6,000 retweets.
TheGatewayPundit.com, a right-wing news website, also posted a story that noted Hogg’s father is a retired FBI agent — a fact the site dubbed a “red flag” — and concluded, without evidence, that the teen had been coached to push anti-Trump talking points.
The problem, as usual, is that these lies rapidly make their way from the far fringes to mass media. Here’s Michael M. Grynbaum in the Times:
Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist behind the site Infowars, suggested that the mass shooting was a “false flag” orchestrated by anti-gun groups. Mr. Limbaugh, on his radio program, said of the student activists on Monday: “Everything they’re doing is right out of the Democrat Party’s various playbooks. It has the same enemies: the N.R.A. and guns.”
By Tuesday, that argument had migrated to CNN. In an on-air appearance, Jack Kingston, a former United States representative from Georgia and a regular CNN commentator, asked, “Do we really think — and I say this sincerely — do we really think 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?”
Charlie Warzel argues that the students have been unusually successful in pushing back against Infowars and its ilk, in part because they instinctively realize the power of mockery and bullshit-calling:
They use platforms like Twitter to call out and put pressure on politicians. They address prominent critics like Bill O’Reilly not with bland, carefully written statements, but by dunking on them, and they respond to misinformation in real-time with their own viral, emoji-laden posts. Rather than take the bait on the crisis actor narrative, they opted to have fun with the conspiracy theories by mocking them. “I’m thankful that there are people out there finding my doppelgangers for me. I’ve always wanted to have a party with a room full of people who look like me,” Emma Gonzalez, a Parkland student, told BuzzFeed News. By dismissing the conspiracies for what they are — a tired, rather boring page in the Infowars playbook — Gonzalez and her classmates have stripped them of their power. Before the pro-Trump media can finish its line of attack, the students, unfazed, have moved on, staying one step ahead of their political enemies and owning the story. 
But it still seems terrible that, a week after they watched 17 of their classmates get shot to death, the responsibility has fallen on their shoulders. 
In December, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the company would bring to 10,000 the number of people employed in content moderation on the site. No one doubts that policing the vast amount of material uploaded to YouTube daily is an enormous challenge. And encouraging platforms to take an active editorial role in deciding what content to promote could have a variety of negative consequences.
But reading the news today I had to ask: where exactly are these 10,000 content moderators? Monitoring the contents of the No. 1 trending video on the site seems like precisely the sort of high-profile task that at least one of these moderators would be assigned to, and yet when the time came for YouTube to make its excuses today, it instead blamed an algorithm that had misclassified the upload as “news” for its prominent placement on the site. Once again, the most urgent policing of platform was left not to the thousands of people paid to do so but to journalists and average users.
We now know with certainty that in the aftermath of any national tragedy, bad actors will flood social networks with content designed to mislead, harass, or worse. If the thousands of new hires at YouTube and elsewhere aren’t proactively seeking to limit the distribution of targeted harassment, it’s time to consider a new approach. 

Democracy
On Social Media, Lax Enforcement Lets Impostor Accounts Thrive
Twitter is going out of its way to verify accounts of some of the most prominent students who survived the Parkland shooting
Medium suspends Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec, Laura Loomer from platform
Conservative Twitter is freaking out over a reported bot purge
Twitter bans bulk tweeting and duplicate accounts in bot crackdown
Translators, psychologists, and inventors: Who are the Russians indicted for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election? — Meduza
The unwitting: The Trump supporters used by Russia
Senior official at HHS promoted unfounded claim that Gold Star father Khizr Khan is a 'Muslim Brotherhood agent'
Elsewhere
Snap responds to the 1.2 million petition signers who hate the redesign
WhatsApp CEO Brian Acton Invests $50 Million in Newly Formed Signal Foundation
When Is a Child Instagram-Ready?
Lara Cohen Rejoins Twitter as Head of Global Partnerships Solutions
Tinder vulnerability allowed account takeover with just a phone number
Houseparty: the teen video chat app taking on Facebook
Launches
Facebook’s Hardware Chief Says ‘Biggest’ AR/VR News Coming in May
Facebook Messenger now lets you add friends to ongoing video chats
Facebook inks music licensing deal with ICE covering 160 territories, 290K rightsholders on FB, Insta, Oculus and Messenger
Takes
Of course the Parkland school hoax videos went viral. The system was designed for this.
‘Trending’ on Social Media Is Worthless
And finally ...
Women are sharing their side profile selfies to show noses of all sizes are beautiful
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Targeted harassment? casey@theverge.com 
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