YouTube mistakes Notre Dame fire for 9/11 ‘conspiracy’ video, highlighting filter failure
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YouTube’s “conspiracy filter” algorithm accidentally tagged livestreams of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire with an “info box” displaying a blurb about the 9/11 attacks, proving its AI isn’t very intelligent after all.
France24 and other agencies running livestreams of the blaze found YouTube had placed the offending conspiracy disclaimer below their videos, featuring a brief summary of the “official version” of the events of September 11, 2001 taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica. Unfortunately, the information was about two decades – and an entire continent – off the mark.
“We are deeply saddened by the ongoing fire at the Notre-Dame cathedral,” a YouTube spokesman said about the gaffe. “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 claims to show “tens of millions” of anti-conspiracy text boxes to viewers every week, pulling text from sources reputable (Britannica) and not-so-reputable (Wikipedia) in an effort to debunk so-called conspiracy theories. The platform stepped up efforts to “reduce recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways” (such as “making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11”) earlier this year, but claimed the measure would apply to less than one percent of all YouTube videos.
As some astute Twitter users pointed out, the feature designed to squelch conspiracy theories was actually promoting them by suggesting there was a link between the events of 9/11 and the cathedral fire.
youtube’s new tool for combatting conspiracy theories actually now risks fuelling misinformation by drawing false comparisons between the Notre Dame fire and 9/11 https://t.co/EbttTL6wdR
— Rob Price (@robaeprice) April 15, 2019
This is so crazy! When I looked up videos of the Notre Dame fire in Paris, YouTube put links to an encyclopedia entry on the September 11 attacks.
This was on multiple channels: France 24, CBS, and ABC.
We have no evidence this is an attack. But YouTube linked it to 9/11. Why?! pic.twitter.com/UIxpPCQAqx
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) April 15, 2019
Indeed, some were already starting to take the platform’s implied suggestion and run with it.
That is crazy. Because I have and unusual flurry of September 11 stories appearing on my FB & Twitter timelines. 🤔
— JennyD (@OriginalKooLaLa) April 15, 2019
The occult season of sacrifice is used to Stage Mass Trauma and Lead the world into the dark new world order Just Like 911 did
— Mugician (@nicoizad) April 15, 2019
Others excused YouTube’s sloppiness, pointing out that in both cases, large buildings were on fire and the Notre Dame Cathedral’s iconic towers were at risk of collapse.
Because they’re both major landmarks being destroyed you tin-hat wearing dolt.
— Frank (@itsfranktime) April 15, 2019
Because it’s image recognition, it looks like a scene from 9/11. So the software believes that it’s a video about 9/11 and the widget appears. Learn what tech you are talking about (i.e. machine learning) before you tweet.
— Alparslan Demir (@arslandmr) April 15, 2019
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