The COVID-19 pandemic is now reshaping tech’s misinformation disaster
Considering 2016, social media firms have encountered an unending barrage of critical press and public critique for failing to foresee how their platforms could be utilised for dark ideas at the scale of populations — threatening democracies throughout the world, say, or planting social division and even firing genocide.
As COVID-19 rushes the world into turmoil and social separation, those same firms may face a break from focused critique, especially with the industry leveraging its exceptional resources to pitch in with COVID-19 welfare efforts as the world sees to tech upstarts, skilled at cutting into red tape and fast-forwarding scientific development in normal times, while government authorities lag.
However, the same old difficulties are rearing their nasty heads just the same, even if fewer of us are paying attention.
The Persisting Problem
On YouTube, the latest report from The Guardian and watchdog group Tech Transparency Project saw that a bunch of videos advertising fake coronavirus remedies are making the company ad dollars.
The videos, which showed irrational methods including “home remedies, meditative melody, and possibly risky levels of over-the-counter supplements like vitamin C” as possible treatments for the virus, streamed ads from inadvertent advertisers including Liberty Mutual, Quibi, Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign including Facebook.
In the initial days of the pandemic, YouTube banned ads on any videos linked to the coronavirus.
In mid-March, as the true scope of the situation became apparent, the company drove that policy back, letting some channels to run ads.
On Thursday, the company extended that policy to enable ads for any videos that stick to the company’s rules.
One of the main points in those rules prohibits the promotion of medical misinformation, including “advertising of dangerous treatments or cures.”
Many of the videos in the latest report were dismissed after being signalled by a journalist.
Questions About The Future
What will become of moderation when things turn to normal, or, more probable, settle on a different normal?
Will artificial intelligence have ruled the task, preventing the need for human critics once and for all? (Unlikely.)
Will social media firms have a new admiration for the value of human struggles and produce more of those jobs in-house, where they can do their bleak job with more of the bright perks provided to their full-time equivalents?
Like most things checked through the nightmarish haze of the pandemic, the consequences are hazy at best.
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