John Naughton on YouTube recommendations favoring extremist propaganda.
What’s going on? How did many Germans become so worked up about a street brawl? This question intrigued Ray Serrato, a Berlin-based digital researcher who first noticed it when his wife’s uncle showed him a YouTube video that claimed the rioters had been Muslim refugees. The video was cheaply produced and uploaded by an obscure fringe group and yet it had had nearly half-a-million views – far more than any legitimate news video of the riots. How was this possible?
So Serrato started digging, looking for information on every Chemnitz-related video published on YouTube this year. What he found, according to a New York Times report, is that the platform’s recommendation system consistently directed people toward extremist videos on the riots — then on to far-right videos on other subjects. “Users searching for news on Chemnitz would be sent down a rabbit hole of misinformation and hate. And as interest in Chemnitz grew, it appears, YouTube funnelled many Germans to extremist pages, whose view-counts skyrocketed.”
On the Ezra Klein podcast
, Zeynep Tufekci, about 12 minutes in, has the best explanation about why "but if people are consuming it, then that's what they want" is wrong. Basically, there's things our "rat brains" (my phrasing) desire that aren't what we want as a whole. For example, people that can't stop playing a slot machine do not necessarily want to spend their time that way.