YouTube intends to prevent misinformation by muzzling “bad content” posted by its users, according to a top executive.
Neal Mohan, the platform’s chief product officer, said tearing down nearly 10 million videos each quarter has not done “nearly enough” to stop the spread of information that YouTube finds objectionable, so the platform has amplified voices it prefers and deliberately turned down those it dislikes.
“The most important thing we can do is increase the good and decrease the bad,” Mr. Mohan said in a post on YouTube’s blog. “That’s why at YouTube we’re ratcheting up information from trusted sources and reducing the spread of videos with harmful misinformation. When people now search for news or information, they get results optimized for quality, not for how sensational the content might be.”
He wrote in the blog post on Wednesday that YouTube is investing in its products to “strike a sensible balance between freedom of speech and freedom of reach.”
For information about COVID-19, YouTube relies on “expert consensus” from health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to “track the science as it develops,” Mr. Mohan said.
As a result, YouTube removed more than 1 million videos related to the coronavirus pandemic from February 2020 through Wednesday, he said.
While Mr. Mohan said the majority of videos it takes down do not reach 10 views on its platform, YouTube also has cracked down on users with large audiences.
For example, YouTube this month barred Sen. Rand Paul from posting videos for one week because YouTube said the Kentucky Republican violated its misinformation policies in claims about the effectiveness of masks in stopping COVID-19.
The Kentucky Republican tweeted that YouTube’s ban was a “badge of honor” and shared the banned video on Rumble, a video platform looking to compete with Google-owned YouTube. The video had more than 450,000 views on Rumble as of Thursday morning, and no other video visible in Mr. Paul’s Rumble channel had more than 120,000 views.
Mr. Mohan said he recognizes that “one person’s misinfo is another person’s deeply held belief” and that removals could have a chilling effect on free speech.
“Removals are a blunt instrument, and if used too widely, can send a message that controversial ideas are unacceptable,” Mr. Mohan said. “We’re seeing disturbing new momentum around governments ordering the takedown of content for political purposes. And I personally believe we’re better off as a society when we can have open debate.”
YouTube banned former President Trump in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March that her platform would end Mr. Trump’s suspension when a risk of violence had ceased. Mr. Trump remains off of YouTube.