YouTube Suffers Big Fail on Notre Dame Fire

Fact-checking tool links it to 9/11 attacks
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2019 11:34 AM CDT
Notre Dame cathedral is seen burning in Paris Monday.   (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

(Newser) – A new YouTube tool designed to curb crazy conspiracy theories may have inadvertently done the exact opposite on Monday. The site mistakenly linked the Notre Dame fire to the 9/11 attacks, reports BuzzFeed. The problem went like so: Various news outlets began putting live video feeds of the fire onto YouTube. But when people navigated to the video, they saw a gray box below it headlined "September 11 attacks" that provided some information about the 2001 attacks and linked to a larger Encyclopaedia Britannica entry. See an example here. It seems an algorithm went awry, explains ABC News.

YouTube has begun putting such fact boxes below controversial videos suspected of spreading conspiracy theories—the idea is to counter the information in the video with a credible, third-party account. Somehow, video of the Notre Dame fire got lumped in with 9/11. "These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call," says a YouTube spokesperson. "We are disabling these panels for livestreams related to the fire." (Billionaires are pledging to help rebuild the cathedral.)

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