Take YouTube’s Dangers Seriously

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My colleague Kevin Roose excels at explaining how our behavior is shaped by the companies behind our favorite online hangouts.

In the first episode of Kevin’s new audio series, called “Rabbit Hole,” he tells us how Caleb Cain, a college dropout in West Virginia, found himself watching ever more extreme YouTube videos. Caleb said he started to believe the racism, misogyny and conspiracy theories he absorbed.

People believe in fringe ideas for complex reasons. But Kevin points some blame at YouTube and its feature that recommends one video after another. This can push people from relatively mainstream videos toward dangerous ideas.

Our conversation about this, and more:

Aren’t most of us on YouTube for cooking videos and kittens, not conspiracies?

Kevin: People watch more than a billion hours of YouTube videos daily. While we can’t know how much of that is disturbing or dangerous, it’s inevitably a huge amount. And for a long time, people like Alex Jones and propaganda networks like RT had millions of subscribers and hundreds of millions of views.

For reliable information about the coronavirus, visit the W.H.O. website and continue reading coverage from The New York Times and other trusted news outlets.

  • “A new way of life conducted amid an unseen alien intelligence.” This story in The Atlantic is a terrific explanation of how Facebook’s data-collection and advertising systems work. And as Kevin discussed about YouTube, Facebook’s automated systems are shaping people’s behaviors in ways even the company can’t predict.

  • Dividing people, with ulterior motives: The protests against state shelter-in-place orders are being coordinated by a handful of provocateurs on Facebook, The Washington Post reported. Charlie Warzel, the Times Opinion writer, said the coronavirus is a perfect subject for online opportunists who “instill a deep distrust in all authority, while promoting a seductive, conspiratorial alternate reality.”

  • Signs of trouble long before Zoombombing: Zoom, the suddenly popular video-calling app, says it was caught off guard by trolls breaking into people’s meetings and by newly identified security flaws. But years ago, some businesses that used Zoom flagged these risks and tried to get the company to fix them, my colleagues Natasha Singer and Nicole Perlroth report.

“I hate this house!!” Oh yes, we are all this cranky child.

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source: nytimes.com

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