YouTube Has Been Cracking Down On Coronavirus Hoaxes, However They Are Nonetheless Going Viral

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The video platform performs better than many other social networking sites, but is still facing a tough battle.

Last updated on February 12, 2020 at 3:16 p.m. ET

Posted on February 11, 2020 at 4:59 p.m. ET


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A video from the US Military Times YouTube channel promoting the hoax that the corona virus is a biological weapon.

When you search for "Coronavirus" or "Wuhan" on YouTube – even in incognito mode, which removes the customization from the search results – high-quality content from verified news providers is displayed. However, this does not mean that virus scams are not seen in large numbers on the platform.

BuzzFeed News on Monday has a list of the 500 most viewed YouTube videos with the watchword "Coronavirus" according to the social metrics dashboard BuzzSumo. Many of the top videos come from news agencies such as Channel 4 News, the South China Morning Post and BBC News. However, this list also includes dozens of popular videos that contain unconfirmed or incorrect information about the virus. In some cases, videos have brought millions of viewers to the claim that the virus is an engineered bio-weapon, that it is from Chinese people who eat "bat soup", or that the deaths are actually ten times higher than reported. As of Wednesday, there were more than 45,210 reported cases of the virus, 99% in China, and 1,118 deaths.

YouTube has waged a well-documented battle against the Conga's conspiracy theories last year, dancing beneath the surface of the platform. The company demonstrated anti-vax content last February. In March last year, it was announced that "Information Panels" – text widgets containing debunks from the site's partners to verify facts – would be shown to be "sensitive to misinformation" for subject searches.

YouTube is now "Coronavirus" "The search results are relatively free of this misinformation – a search returns a CDC warning, a live blog about the outbreak of a trusted news source, and hundreds of videos from verified channels.

But the corona virus is now taking these measures to the test – and pushed them into smaller, denser pockets of the viewer by suppressing the edge.


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There are hundreds of videos on YouTube that use unconfirmed footage of suspected Chinese coronavirus victims who are collapsing in public.

"We are committed to providing timely and helpful information at this critical time, including increasing relevant content, reducing the spread of harmful misinformation, and displaying information panels that help fight misinformation using WHO data," a spokesman for YouTube BuzzFeed News said. "We also have clear guidelines that prohibit videos that promote medically-based methods of preventing coronavirus instead of medical attention, and we quickly remove videos that violate these guidelines when we are notified."

In a statement released after publication, a Facebook spokesman said he was "working hard to stop the spread of the corona virus, including in groups."

The most popular joke on YouTube right now is this. The corona virus is a Chinese bio-weapon. The most shared video that makes this claim was viewed nearly 1.2 million times on Tuesday. It was posted by a channel called the US Military Times, which uses text-to-speech software to write news videos about territorial disputes in the South China Sea from an anti-Beijing perspective. The US Military Times published two videos that claimed the corona virus was a biological weapon. The second was the most viewed video that was shared over 31,000 times on Facebook. According to the Crowdtangle social metrics dashboard, the largest source of traffic comes from Tibetan Facebook groups. The bio-weapon fraud was rejected by scientists.

Other channels driving the bio-weapon fraud are Geopolitics & Empire, which released a video titled "Francis Boyle: Wuhan Coronavirus is an Offensive Biological Weapon" (150,000 views) and verified user Upper Echelon Gamers who "The CoronaVirus Conspiracy (Theory)" released (198,000 views). Another joke, suggesting that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has been linked to the outbreak, has been viewed about 150,000 times on YouTube and thousands of times on Facebook, mostly Facebook groups affiliated with QAnon.

Videos that use unconfirmed or debunked footage are also common. A Chinese nurse's WeChat video clip claiming 100,000 people were infected has been translated into English and is now being viralized in several YouTube videos. According to WeChat users who spoke to BuzzFeed News last month, the clip is so widespread in China that the Chinese government sent a message saying it was wrong.

According to BuzzSumo, the most popular video with the nurse is the "CORONAVIRUS update of the Chinese nurse in Wuhan, China". The video was viewed 850,000 times on YouTube on a channel called Ronald Daquipil. The video of Daquipil was shared over 6,000 times on Facebook. A Russian translation of the video uploaded from another channel was viewed around 800,000 times.

Another hoax posted on YouTube indicated that the outbreak of the corona virus was caused by "bat soup". It is usually found in a montage of three video clips featuring a well-known Chinese influencer eating bat meat in a hotel in Palau, a viral clip by Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok), and a close-up of a bat in a broth bowl. The most popular of these videos has been viewed 1.8 million times on YouTube.

Beyond the bat soup prank videos, the "collapsing" videos are known in which suspected victims appear to collapse in public. There are hundreds of them, the most popular of which have been viewed 1.1 million times. "What is really happening in Wuhan?" was posted by a channel called Astig Magaling, which seems to focus mostly on Filipino men basketball team.

The broadcaster's corona virus clip is the most viewed video and has seen a significant surge in Facebook groups. There it was shared more than 5,000 times and promoted by a chemtrails group and a group for people that I believe the widespread claim that 5G cellular networks cause harmful radiation is false. As of Tuesday, the video, and one similar, was viewed a total of 1.2 million times.

A user wrote in the Facebook group Chemtrails Global Skywatch: “What news is does not show us. While looking at that, I thought of a bio-weapon! "

" 5G was installed weeks ago … before this outbreak … "commented a second user. "Maybe that has something to do with it."

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