Youtube cracks down on the growing conspiracy theory trend


Youtube, the second most used platform on the Internet, has made significant changes since it’s 2005 debut. It was a platform where videos were uploaded for fun and there were few restrictions on what kind of videos you could upload. In recent years, however, it has shifted from a fun and creative platform to a business-like environment.

According to Omnicore, “at least 50 million people create content on Youtube,” and because of that Youtube has been more strict about what kind of content is appropriate on their site. The current restrictions include violence, hate speech and inappropriate videos for the youth. But Youtube also may be becoming more strict about misinformation and increasing censorship through the new policy they implemented back in January.

Conspiracy theories are the main focus of the new policy. Youtuber, Shane Dawson, has brought new meaning to the way conspiracy theory videos are made on the site. Dawson launched a ‘docu-series’ back in February’ where he goes out and investigates some of the Internet’s most popular conspiracy theories.  One of the theories he questions is whether Chuck-E-Cheese is reusing uneaten pizza that had been previously served and reselling it to customers. Chuck-E-Cheese, in response to this, released multiple statements that they do not “reuse their pizza.” But some of Dawson’s viewers responded strongly, stating that “[they] pledged to never return to the pizzeria-and-arcade franchise again,” as the Washington Post details.  Although Dawson’s videos are entertaining, he does warn that his videos are “only theories and by no means fact,” in response to Chuck-E-Cheese’s scramble to maintain their reputation.

The Washington Post commented that “conspiracy theories” like Dawson’s “have been plaguing Youtube for several years.” As of January, Youtube has responded by not recommending  “content that could misinform users in harmful ways.” Youtube’s sudden policy change was enacted in response to last year’s Parkland shootings theories. The theories detailed how the students interviewed by news outlets were “crisis actors” or how the FBI had something to do with the horrific event. Some of the Parkland survivors spoke out against these theories; Alfonso Calderon spoke out against these theories and told Buzzfeed News that “… I understand. I was in a closet locked, for four hours…I understand what it’s like to text my parents, ‘goodbye, I might never ever get to see you again, I love you’”.

The bigger backlash is towards Youtube “update [to] their system to focus on viewer satisfaction instead of views, including measuring likes, dislikes, surveys, and time well spent, all while recommending clickbait videos less often,”  like the Parkland theories. The backlash mostly comes from YouTubers who are afraid that they’re videos will drop in views because of the change in the Youtube algorithm. Youtube’s actions may be getting backlash from its creators but their intentions are to prevent hurtful theories like the Parkland crisis actors and the 9/11 theory from spreading misinformation.