YouTube Videos Promoting Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories Taken Down After Press Gazette Investigation
YouTube is broadcasting Covid-19 conspiracy theory videos to millions of people, and in some cases running adverts alongside them, a Press Gazette investigation has found.
The Google-owned platform, which made $15bn in revenue last year, claims to have cracked down on dangerous and misleading content. But several such videos were only removed after being flagged by Press Gazette, and some had been live for weeks.
A video claiming that 5G causes coronavirus had been live on the website for more than a month and viewed more than 1.5m times. The video, which was one of the most-viewed under the search term “coronavirus 5G”, was kept live between 25 March and 1 May, despite YouTube announcing a crackdown on such content in early April. Our investigation also found:
- A video viewed more than 80,000 times from a “verified” YouTube account in which an interviewee called for the “execution” of mainstream media, “taking out those bastards that have lied and lied and lied”. The YouTube channel boss said the guest was being metaphorical
- Adverts for a United Nations charity featuring alongside videos in which conspiracy theorist David Icke suggests Iran was badly affected by coronavirus because of its relationship with the United States and Israel
- A 45-minute excerpt from last month’s London Live interview with Icke – which broadcast regulator Ofcom said “had the potential to cause significant harm to viewers” – that has been viewed more than 6m times
- A video condemning tech entrepreneur Bill Gates as an “antichrist”, using as evidence a conspiratorial article that has been debunked by Reuters.
One critic condemned YouTube and Google owner Alphabet for profiting from the content – and only acting to remove it after it was highlighted by Press Gazette.
“Journalists shouldn’t be their cleanup crew,” said Jason Kint, chief executive of US digital publishing trade body Digital Content Next, which has been lobbying for the tech giants to tackle fake news for several years.
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