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Covid-Related Misinformation on YouTube

The Spread of Misinformation Videos on Social Media and the Effectiveness of Platform Policies

Authors: Aleksi Knuutila, Aliaksandr Herasimenka, Hubert Au, Jonathan Bright, Rasmus Nielsen, Philip N. Howard

For this memo, we identified all Covid-related videos which circulated on social media, but which YouTube eventually removed because they contained false information. Between October, 2019 and June, 2020 there were 8,105 such videos – less than 1% of all YouTube videos about the coronavirus. We find that:

• It took YouTube on average 41 days to remove videos containing false information, based on a subset of videos for which this data was available.
• Surprisingly, Covid-related misinformation videos do not find their audience through YouTube itself, but largely by being shared on Facebook.
• Facebook placed warning labels about false information only on 55 videos, less than 1% of the misinformation videos shared on the platform.
• Misinformation videos were shared almost 20 million times on social media, which is more than the shares gathered by the five largest English-language news sources on YouTube combined (CNN, ABC News, BBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera)


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