Fake news moves expeditiously — and despite promises from tech giants to remove such content, these stories spread far and linger. In the wake of a tragic week, during which Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain died in separate instances of obvious suicide, YouTube’s first few results approximately their deaths surface conspiracy theories.
The video, in which a robotic voice intones that Bourdain was “working on an exposé of elite pedophiles just weeks before he was found dead in an obvious suicide,” garnered 7,400 views in two days. No ad plays before the video, but the associated channel, called Anonymous EXPOSED, prominently displays a Patreon donation link on its landing page.
The third result on mobile, meanwhile, is a video by well-known far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
The videos push some version of the same theory: Bourdain was an outspoken supporter of Asia Argento, the actress whom he had been dating and one of the women who publicly accused Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. Since Hillary Clinton had received campaign donations from Weinstein (who was a generous supporter of the Democratic Party), the conspiracy theorists said the Clintons and Weinstein could gain orchestrated Bourdain’s death.
The conspiracy is then tied tenuously to a sex trafficking sting that was apparently conducted in the Atlanta area, where CNN, the cable channel that hosts Bourdain’s Parts Unknown TV program, is headquartered.
This conspiracy has also been debunked by Snopes.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, YouTube said, “These deaths were both tragic and we’ve seen a huge outpouring of support on YouTube. We’re continuously working to better surface and promote news and authoritative sources to originate the best possible information approximately these tragedies easily accessible.”
The video company, for its fraction, recently took steps to supply greater transparency for users around news items on its platform. Now, notices below videos by news broadcasters label whether the outlet receives some level of government or public funding. And YouTube has committed to applying its “powerful novel machine learning technology” to extremist content. It also plans to gain more than 10,000 human reviewers evaluating videos on the platform by the conclude of this year.
YouTube said, “We’ve made algorithmic changes to better surface authoritative videos at the top of search results. We created a ‘Breaking News’ shelf on the YouTube homepage that serves up content from dependable news sources after a major event. When people enter news-related search queries, we prominently display a ‘Top News’ shelf in their search results. We know there is more to carry out here and we’re looking forward to making more announcements in the months ahead.”
Despite YouTube’s efforts, fake news continues to populate the platform’s search results.