In one of those surprises that can creep up behind us the world’s fact-checking organizations have just released a letter saying that YouTube should give lots more money to the world’s fact-checking organizations.
At least two media outlets have reported this as being a criticism of YouTube rather than what it is — somewhere between begging and blackmail.
The joint letter itself is hosted at Poynter.org. Poynter is one of the organizations that runs a fact-checking operation that would benefit if YouTube were to spend more on fact-checking organizations.
The letter itself contains the usual insistences. People are saying things that are not true, this is a danger to civilization as we know it and therefore they must be stopped. The worry here is, who is defining what truth is and what measurements are they using to decide?
There are four demands made in this joint letter, three of which are lightly coded demands for more money from YouTube.
“YouTube should support independent research about the origins,” “systematically investing in independent fact-checking efforts” and “ extend current and future efforts against disinformation and misinformation in languages different from English. . In short: YouTube should give more money to fact-checking organizations.
Maybe it should, but taking that as being true from this source is like taking your barber’s word over whether you need a haircut.
Reading the letter directly it’s easy enough to see what is really being said – not all that much reading between the lines is really necessary. But the reporting on it gets worse. Mashable runs a rewrite of the letter itself without drawing out this obvious point. HuffPost doesn’t even mention the desire for more money or investment and just runs a short brief on the claims – people are telling lies and they shouldn’t! – which is really missing the point of the initial letter.
Both HuffPost and Mashable are popular news sources. HuffPost ranks No. 27 in News and Media and gains some 65 million views a month, Mashable some 9 million views. They’re important sources of information for the young these days. They owe rather better reporting than this.
Merely repeating the claims made by a campaigning organization aren’t enough, some analysis is required in order to make sense of the news. At least some discussion of the major claim – more of YouTube’s money please – would have informed readers rather better than what was published.