YouTube will disclose when videos are government-funded

YouTube, Google’s popular video service, has announced it will now label all videos created by state-funded media outlets.

In a 3 November blog post, YouTube pledged it would be increasingly transparent in the content it hosts on its site. This move involves labelling content funded partially or wholly by government or public money. Although, YouTube won’t specify to what degree the video was funded from this source, or exactly where in the government the money came from.

This news follows Facebook’s recent decision to disclose the funding behind political adverts on its platform. However, as politically-funded advertisements on YouTube still won’t have their sources disclosed to the public, it’s unclear just what difference a “sponsored”-like label will make.

In addition, YouTube will include links to Wikipedia on videos to provide information on the particular broadcaster or video publisher, in an attempt to help users better understand sources and their reliability. YouTube has already tried this tactic before, adding Wikipedia links to conspiracy theory videos, which in no way stopped that misinformation epidemic.

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YouTube is only rolling out this update in the US, with hints that it’ll become available in other countries once it’s been perfected. Users are also being asked to send feedback on the service via a feedback form.

YouTube didn’t specify exactly how government and public funding would be identified, but each potential avenue the service could go down for identifying funded channels could be open to abuse. Whether channels were asked to self-certify, or if YouTube decided to investigate each and every one itself, there’s no guarantee that all state-funded media could be identified. Similarly, YouTube would need to be able to distinguish between channels that are funded by governments, and individual videos made with the help of local or public resources.

However, this small step towards transparency online is a welcome one — especially given the misinformation campaigns the site is increasingly becoming known for. But, as with Facebook’s attempt at political transparency, there’s no guarantee that this extra information will cause people to question or evaluate sources in any way.

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