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News viewership surges 75% YoY on YouTube, as people seek COVID-19 updates

YouTube app on a mobile phone

YouTube has seen a 75% year-on-year surge in news viewership in recent weeks with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan told Bloomberg Television*. Social distancing measures worldwide have led to more people spending time indoors than ever before. People are consuming as much information around the crisis and are seeking updates on the general and economic news, apart from just medical information. “It’s top of mind for everybody,” Mohan said. He did not share any specific numbers.

Global technology platforms have had to deal with the deluge of misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic. YouTube’s policy is to show content from authoritative sources, it decides which channels to recommend to users based on a scoring mechanism for them. This is done using a number of signals, including from Google News, and from “evaluators”. “We have evaluators spread across the world who give us their opinions [on videos] based on YouTube’s guidelines, and we use all those signals to determine a score for a channel,” Mohan said.

When it comes to verifying their credibility of content created by doctors, Mohan said YouTube works with actual doctors to discern information that may seem accurate but has issues from the medical perspective. Only if the channel meets that bar, YouTube will recommend it to users, he added. Similarly, any information discouraging people from seeking timely medical care or pushing people towards harmful cures is removed. Content which may not be a clear policy violation, but has some misinformation, is demoted and not recommended to users.

“We’re remaining as vigilant as possible, removing content that is a clear policy violation, and we have actively demoting content that brushes up against misinformation,” Mohan said.

Most recently, YouTube began reducing the number of recommendations for videos that spread false claims that 5G technology is linked to coronavirus. YouTube said it will actively remove videos that breach its policies, the company said. It still allowed content that is is simply conspiratorial about 5G technology and networks, but don’t mention coronavirus, to remain on the platform.

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*(watch at 27:20)

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MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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