During the recent protests in Hong Kong, Google announced that YouTube was used to deliberately spread misleading content and false news to users, and launched a new tagging feature to address this problem.
YouTube started tagging videos uploaded by government or publicly funded media organizations under this new feature. Currently active in 10 regions, including Hong Kong, this feature allows users to learn more about publishers.
So far, YouTube has been criticized for not discriminating between government-sponsored but editorially independent publishers and broadcasters such as the government's spokesperson, Xinhua News Agency or China Global Television Network.
Sour @YouTube “state-conrolled” disinformation in #HK by putting all state-funded media organizations, including @cgtnofficial and us (@deutschewell to), into the same category. This is a very terrible generalization. https://t.co/udbhpggxs1
– William Yang (@ WilliamYang120) August 27, 2019
This new feature of YouTube was first discovered by Jane Manchun Wong, who is known for discovering hidden features in apps. YouTube has the following statements in its updated publishing policies:
“If a channel belongs to a government-funded or publicly funded news broadcaster, an information panel indicating the publisher's context can be viewed on the watch page of the channel's videos.”
When you enter the panel, you can see how the publisher is financed and the links to the Wikipedia page about the publisher. Published in the USA, UK, Ireland, India, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland and Hong Kong, the feature can be viewed on Voice of America, BBC, Xinhua and National Public Radio pages.
YouTube shares a statement that the information presented in the panel is not an interpretation of YouTube. Let's also add that these panels will not be visible in YouTube search results, and they will not affect video views or revenue criteria.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that Google blocked 210 accounts because it shared misleading content during the demonstrations in Hong Kong. Moreover, YouTube is not alone. Facebook and Twitter also announced that they are taking action against accounts that are part of the propaganda campaign.