YouTube Content: Are There Dark Rabbit Holes in Which Evil Lurks? Come On Now!

September 1, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Google has become a cultural touchstone. The most recent evidence is a bit of moral outrage in Popular Science. Now the venerable magazine is, and the Google has irritated the technology explaining staff. Navigate to “YouTube’s Extremist Rabbit Holes Are Deep But Narrow.”

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Google, your algorithm is creating rabbit holes. Yes, that is a technical term,” says the PopSci technology expert. Thanks for a C+ image MidJourney.

The write up asserts:

… exposure to extremist and antagonistic content was largely focused on a much smaller subset of already predisposed users. Still, the team argues the platform “continues to play a key role in facilitating exposure to content from alternative and extremist channels among dedicated audiences.” Not only that, but engagement with this content still results in advertising profits.

I think the link with popular science is the “algorithm.” But the write up seems to be more a see-Google-is-bad essay. Science? No. Popular? Maybe?

The essay concludes with this statement:

While continued work on YouTube’s recommendation system is vital and admirable, the study’s researchers echoed that, “even low levels of algorithmic amplification can have damaging consequences when extrapolated over YouTube’s vast user base and across time.” Approximately 247 million Americans regularly use the platform, according to recent reports. YouTube representatives did not respond to PopSci at the time of writing.

I find the use of the word “admirable” interesting. Also, I like the assertion that algorithms can do damage. I recall seeing a report that explained social media is good and another study pitching the idea that bad digital content does not have a big impact. Sure, I believe these studies, just not too much.

Google has a number of buns in the oven. The firm’s approach to YouTube appears to be “emulate Elon.” Content moderation will be something with a lower priority than keeping tabs on Googlers who don’t come to the office or do much Google work. My suggestion for Popular Science is to do a bit more science, and a little less quasi-MBA type writing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 1, 2023


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