YouTube videos of the massive fire that engulfed Paris’ Notre Dame in smoke and flames strangely included a link to a description of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Livestreams on YouTube by Fox News, USA Today and more included a panel featuring language from Encyclopedia Britannica about 9/11. The Notre Dame fire has no reported connection to terrorism or the Sept. 11 tragedy.
A view of the Sept. 11 description panel beneath footage of the Notre Dame fire on YouTube. YouTube Another view of the Sept. 11 description panel.
The description panel is apparently part of a YouTube initiative designed to counter misinformation and conspiracy theories on its platform. YouTube told Gizmodo that these description panels are “triggered algorithmically.”
“We are deeply saddened by the ongoing fire at the Notre Dame cathedral,” YouTube told HuffPost. “Last year, we launched information panels with links to third party sources like Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia for subjects subject to misinformation. These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call. We are disabling these panels for live streams related to the fire.”
YouTube told CBS in March when the description panels launched that it would not be fact-checking individual videos and that the panels will appear “above videos and below the search topic, serving as a warning.” The company said its initiative does not mean YouTube will remove videos that contain false information.
It’s not immediately clear why the panel on Monday linked the fire at Notre Dame to Sept. 11. The panel appeared on various news sites’ livestreams of the fire, including those of NBC News and France24.
Why in the world is @YouTube putting information about 9/11 underneath the Notre Dame livestream from @FRANCE24?(Especially since it seems like, at least right now, ongoing renovations are the most likely cause, no indication of terror) https://t.co/A3HP36epxx pic.twitter.com/ZheCMC5pcG
— Joshua Benton (@jbenton) April 15, 2019
YouTube is suggesting viewers read about 9/11 during Notre Dame-related streams, for some reason pic.twitter.com/mqNxVs5BSe
— jordan (@JordanUhl) April 15, 2019
The description panels now appear to be disabled on footage of the fire.
YouTube has long been under fire for not curbing the spread of conspiracies about tragedies like school shootings, terrorist attacks and more. Last year, the Daily Beast interviewed many former neo-Nazis and other members of the far right who talked about YouTube’s role in their radicalization. YouTube employees have reportedly left the company over its inability to manage misinformation.