Mon 18 September 2023:
There is no convincing evidence, according to a study that was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, that YouTube encouraged anti-vaccine sentiment during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Researchers looked at whether YouTube’s recommendation engine directed users who were looking for information on vaccines toward anti-vaccine content.
The study involved participants trained by the World Health Organization (WHO) in intentionally finding an anti-vaccine video with as few clicks as possible, starting from an initial informational Covid-19 video posted by the WHO. These users’ recommendations were compared to related videos obtained from YouTube’s application programming interface (API) and Up-Next recommended videos viewed by clean browsers without user-identifying cookies.
Over 27,000 video recommendations made by YouTube were analyzed using machine learning methods to classify anti-vaccine content. The study’s lead author, Margaret Yee Man Ng, an Illinois journalism professor with an appointment in the Institute of Communications Research, stated, “We found no evidence that YouTube promotes anti-vaccine content to its users.”
Throughout users’ recommendation journeys, the average share of anti-vaccine or vaccine hesitancy videos remained below 6%. Researchers initially sought to understand YouTube’s content recommendation techniques and whether they led users toward anti-vaccine sentiment and vaccine hesitancy.
The study’s goal was to produce suggestions for enhancing YouTube’s response to the spread of false information. The study’s co-author and researcher at UN Global Pulse, Katherine Hoffmann Pham, said, “Contrary to public belief, YouTube wasn’t promoting anti-vaccine content. The study reveals that YouTube’s algorithms instead recommended other health-related content that was not explicitly related to vaccination.”
This study advances knowledge about how social media platforms handle delicate subjects and how recommendation engines affect users’ content consumption.
SOURCE: INDEPENDENT PRESS AND NEWS AGENCIES
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