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YouTube Eyes New Ways to Stop Misinformation From Spreading Beyond Its Reach

Stopping misinformation before it goes viral is a top goal for the video site.

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James Martin/CNET

YouTube outlined on Thursday new efforts it plans to undertake to tackle misinformation. Stopping misinformation before it goes viral, limiting cross-platform sharing of misinformation and better addressing misinformation in languages other than English are three areas of focus, YouTube's chief product officer, Neal Mohan, said in a blog post.

YouTube's attention to cross-platform sharing would limit views of videos that are borderline cases under the company's current misinformation guidelines. YouTube says adjustments to its recommendation system have greatly reduced consumption of these borderline videos on its platform, but traffic from other sites embedding and linking to these videos remains a problem. Possible fixes include disabling the share button or breaking links to videos that've already been suppressed on YouTube, Mohan said. Warnings that a video could include misinformation are another possible fix and something YouTube employs for graphic and age-restricted content.

To stop misinformation around the world, YouTube is considering larger, culturally knowledgeable teams and partnerships with nongovernmental organizations and local experts. YouTube may also add new labels to videos on emerging, fast-developing topics such as natural disasters.

The measures are the latest look at YouTube's attempt to balance safety and suppressing misinformation with freedom of expression, an issue that's been in the public eye throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. YouTube is the biggest source of online video, with over 2 billion monthly users.

"We need to be careful to balance limiting the spread of potentially harmful misinformation, while allowing space for discussion of and education about sensitive and controversial topics," Mohan said.

Critics argue that YouTube isn't doing enough to address the problem. In January, more than 80 fact-checking groups sent a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki demanding greater action on misinformation on the platform.

Thursday's blog post was the first of a series in which YouTube will share its thinking on difficult issues facing the company.

CNET's Joan Solsman contributed to this report.